IndyCar discloses findings of Wheldon's fatal crash
Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - After a near two-month investigation, IndyCar revealed a comprehensive review of the 15-car racing accident that claimed the life of Dan Wheldon in the early going of the October 16 season- ending race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
IndyCar officials stated that Wheldon, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and former series champion, suffered a "non-survivable head injury" after his No.77 car went airborne and then made impact with a vertical post on the catch fence that's located in the turn-two area of the 1.5-mile racetrack. The pole intruded the cockpit of Wheldon's car, therefore producing life-ending blunt force trauma to his head.
The accident report noted that Wheldon's path on the lower portion of the racetrack was blocked by the multi-car crash he was approaching. Wheldon, who started from the rear of the 34-car field, was running 24th just before the incident occurred on lap 11.
"There are multiple factors that are not uncommon to racing that came together in a way that claimed Dan's life," Brian Barnhart, president of operations for IndyCar, said during a press conference held on Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "It is a tragedy. Our thoughts and support will always be with Dan's family."
IndyCar analyzed data from the accident data recorders carried on board each race car involved in the crash, the on-board data acquisition system from teams, timing and scoring data, video, still photographs, physical evidence and eyewitness reports from participants.
Third-party experts with Indianapolis-based Wolf Technical Services provided independent assurance that the investigation protocol, evidence examined and reviewed, and the conclusions reached were consistent and appropriate to standard scientific and engineering investigation methods.
In what the accident report cited as a "perfect storm," Wheldon's fatal crash involved circumstances of location, direction and orientation on the track that were the chance result of previous car contact.
Examination of video of the incident demonstrated normal "pack racing" that was common on high-banked ovals, but there was almost unlimited movement on the track surface under race conditions not previously experienced that attributed to track geometry beyond banking. This widened the probability for car-to-car contact but made it more difficult for drivers to predict the movement of other competitors. The chances for a multi-car crash were therefore increased.
According to the report, the 34-car starting field was determined to be acceptable based on factors such as length and width of the racetrack and pit space capability. The incident that happened at Las Vegas could have occurred with any size starting field at any track.
Last week, IndyCar announced it would not compete at Las Vegas in 2012. The series was scheduled to run its season-finale there on October 14, but IndyCar and track officials have said considerable testing with the 2012 car is needed prior to returning to the track. Wheldon had been testing the new Dallara chassis prior to his accident.
"IndyCar's commitment to safety was enhanced by Dan Wheldon's testing throughout 2011 of the new car to be used by IndyCar in 2012," Randy Bernhard, the CEO of IndyCar, said. "The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season ushers in an era of a new race car and the opportunity for continued safety advancements.
"Dan Wheldon was instrumental in the testing and development of this new car and the safety innovations that it represents. We are thankful for his efforts and commitment to racing."
The 2012 schedule is expected to be released in the coming days. It's not known yet if Texas Motor Speedway -- a track similar to Las Vegas -- will be on next year's calendar.
12/15 13:55:04 ET