IndyCar fans, officials mourn Dan Wheldon, search for answers
IndyCar officials have not yet addressed safety concerns about the motor sport, preferring to focus on mourning Dan Wheldon, as condolences continue to pour in from around the globe.
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"They need to be talking safety. They are going to have to discuss safety concerns."Skip to next paragraph
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Ironically, Wheldon had spent much of the year testing IndyCar's "Car of the Future", a car with enhanced safety features that is to be introduced next season.
In an attempt to drum up interest in the season finale and highlight the skill of IndyCar drivers, series CEO Randy Bernard had offered a $5 million bonus to any qualified driver believing he could get into car and beat the series' best.
Bernard had hoped to attract a few big-name former Formula One or NASCAR drivers to add some spice to the season-ender but found no takers.
"I don't think Formula One guys have an appetite for ovals," Bernard told Reuters in an earlier interview. "All I've heard is that they fear them, that's what separates our drivers and these are the points we need to get out there.
"IndyCar isn't for everyone, it takes someone who has a lot of guts to get behind a wheel and go 230 mph around an oval."
Without a full-time ride this season, Wheldon was the only one to accept the offer but the Briton was far from an IndyCar novice having twice won the Indy 500, including the 100th anniversary race in May and the Series driver's crown in 2005.
Not everyone in the field had the benefit of Wheldon's experience and with 34 tightly-bunched cars going flat out it added up to what many drivers described as a recipe for disaster.
In the aftermath of the deadly crash, some drivers, like NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson have called for an end to racing open-wheel IndyCars on ovals.
"Within five laps people started to do crazy stuff," said Briton Dario Franchitti. "I wanted no part of it."
Motor racing fans like drivers, accept their sport comes with high risks but space age technology and new safety advances, in the car and at racetracks, have made crashes more survivable.
Despite all the advances, Wheldon's death provided a chilling reminder of just how dangerous the sport remains.
"Days like today is it worth it? Absolutely not," said Franchitti, who claimed the drivers crown for a third straight year when the finale was canceled. "But we're race car drivers, it's what we do.
"We push each other, we push ourselves, we push our team to win these races and championships. It's what drives us forward. It's what we love.
"Then you see that happen to Dan and you know what, it doesn't matter."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)