The motorsports world may be separated by different types of racing, but when a fallen family member passes in an accident, members come together to show their support.
IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon was tragically killed in a 15-car accident at Las Vegas last Sunday. He was competing to pocket the $5 million bonus put up by the track owner. Wheldon had to start from the rear of the 34-car field. He was entering Turn 2 and got caught up in accident. He was airlifted to a local hospital and died a short-time later of head trauma.
Other drivers have stated the Las Vegas track is too fast for IndyCar. The cars can reach speeds more than 225 miles per hour. Wheldon struck the catch fence in excess of 200 mph. Drastic safety changes have been instigated over the years, but not enough to save Wheldon.
The motorsports family, led by IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, has started a silent auction to help benefit the Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund. Rahal has donated his helmet, gloves and shoes used at Las Vegas.
Other drivers and celebrities from around the world have followed his lead.
Donations have included items from IndyCar drivers Dario Franchitti and Tony Kaanan, and NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch; an Indiana Pacers jersey signed by Larry Bird; items from seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong; and an NFL jersey signed by Roger Staubach, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Warren Moon and Harry Carson.
Drivers know the hazards of driving on a track, but never hesitate to jump behind the wheel to challenge their ability and fate.
Open-wheel racers take one of the largest gambles by competing at speeds of more than 200 mph. More safety measures are needed to either slow the cars or a better way to protect drivers in the car. Upgrades, such as a rally hoop over the driver's cockpit and stronger driver's seats will help protect them from rollovers and airborne incidents. Track officials are considering a new type of catch fencing to lessen the force damage to the car and driver, while still protecting race fans.
The SAFER barrier was designed to reduce the force a car has when impacting a wall. This measure could be used in the new design of a retaining fence.
The new fencing would eliminate wire strains and replace them with metal strapping in three layers. Each layer would be supported by a tri-layer of crash foam, similar to that used in the SAFER barrier. The strapping would absorb the impact, but not tear apart the car, thus reducing the harm to the driver.
All forms of racing are dangerous, but officials, drivers and fans take part for the thrill of competition. Safety is not assured for any driver, but measures can be taken to help protect them during the races without limiting the level of competition.
A faithful fan will always show up for the races, but hates to see his or her favorite driver pay the ultimate price for participation. Dan Wheldon paid the ultimate price, but due to his tragic death the sport will investigate and instigate new measures of safety to keep today's and tomorrow's drivers safe.
Contact Eddie Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org