The Indy Series final race of the 2011 season looked to be some of the best racing we would see on the year. Dario Franchitti and Will Power were going to race for the Championship it what seemed to be a great race and Danica Patrick was saying her farewells to Indy. The first few laps of the race were ‘entertaining’ on some levels, as the cars went over the 200mph on 9 degrees of banking. 34 cars started the field Sunday, typically only 33 cars line the field for the Indianapolis 500 (which is run on a 2.5-mile track). Many drivers questioned the safety of the event just days before. But those questions fell silent as the most horrific accident seen in years ran down on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Wheldon, a two-time Indy 500 winner, had gone into the catch fence head first. His and 14 other cars, Will Power’s including, were mangled on the back stretch. Crews scrambled to get the drivers out of their cars and the cars off the track. Cars were airborne, on fire, losing parts and pieces. The wreck took out almost half the field. Four of the 15 drivers involved in the wreck were transported to the local hospital: Pippa Mann, JR Hildebrand (JR lost the Indy 500 to Wheldon after crashing coming to the checkered flag), Will Power (He had gone later after complaining about lower back pain), and Wheldon, who was airlifted by helicopter.
With this horrifying scene that looked like it came right out of the movies, the Indy series announced that Dario Franchitti had won the championship but no one wanted to celebrate until knowing if Dan Wheldon was okay or not. The day was in extreme uncertainty with everything of not knowing what was going to happen with the race, the drivers hurt in the accident, the well being of Dan Wheldon and the very uneasy feeling that every fan had.
About two hours after the wreck, officials went into the Media Center to announce that Dan Wheldon had passed away at the hospital. This new rocked the social media world. Just like that, Wheldon was gone. Officials cancelled the rest of the race. The drivers decided to give Wheldon a 5-lap tribute. And as a fan, this was by far the hardest 5 laps I have ever watched in my life. The expression on Dario and Tony Kanaan’s faces said exactly how hard it was to climb back into that car knowing that their dear friend had passed.
This tragic passing didn’t only shock the Indy, NASCAR, and racing fans as a whole but it shocked athletes like Kurt Warner, all the NASCAR drivers, Mike McKenna and others. And here at Sports Rantz, we would like to say that our thoughts and prayers are with the Wheldon family.