Drivers involved in the Las Vegas Indy 300 race Sunday that killed British driver Dan Wheldon had expressed serious doubts about the track the morning of the crash.
At a driver’s meeting Sunday morning before the race, drivers in the 34-car field discussed the track’s susceptibility to “packing” because of its even turns and shortness. The Indianapolis 500 track is 2.5 miles. The Las Vegas track is a full mile shorter.
According to CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker, “Everybody kind of expected that there was going to be at least one or two really big crashes."
The pileup occurred just minutes into the 300 lap race. Driving inches from each other at speeds approaching 225 miles an hour, the accident occurred down track in front of Wheldon. Driving through the 15-car pileup, described by one driver as a scene from the movie “Terminator,” Wheldon’s car went airborne over the wreckage and crashed into the fence, fatally injuring him.
It took nearly an hour for crews to clean the track and make repairs. It was then drivers voted to discontinue the race and drove a five memorial laps in honor of Wheldon.
Wheldon was driving for Sam Schmidt, who was left a quadriplegic after a horrific crash in 2000 cut short his own Indy career.
"There was total concern about everything," said Sports Illustrated writer Bruce Martin. "Not so much the track, the track really didn't do anything wrong, as much as it was the style of race cars that you have in the Izod IndyCar. On a high bank speedway, they're able to go flat - that means flat to the floor with the accelerator - and by doing that, there was no separation of the field. So you had a pack of 34 cars all racing in one large group. At a lot of the other ovals you have a little bit of separation. They start 33 cars at the Indianapolis 500 - that's a two-and-half-mile flat oval. There's a lot of time for the cars to separate, for the good cars to get away from the slower cars."
Wheldon leaves behind a wife, his long time personal assistant Susie Behm, and two sons, two-year-old Sebastian and six-month-old Oliver. The family lived in St. Petersburg. Thoughts and prayers have gone out to them from throughout the auto racing world.