IndyCar contestants and fans are mourning the loss of one of the Indy Racing League's more prominent faces.
Dan Wheldon, 33, the 2011 Indianapolis 500 winner, died Sunday at the series finale of the 2011 IndyCar Championship, held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The horrific 15-car crash has left drivers concerned about the high speeds at the track. Race drivers in the championship routinely drive at speeds in excess of 200 mph, even during practice sessions.
Sam Schmidt, a former IRL driver and current IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights Series team owner, who was left in a wheelchair after a crash earlier in his career, said Monday that Wheldon's death had left him shaken enough to leave the sport he loves.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't. You've got to think about it. It's one thing to take the risk yourself and my situation. It's something I was doing since I was 5 years old and I'm still here to watch my kids grow up. It's an amazing parallel between Dan's age and my age when I got hurt and the ages of his kids, Schmidt told the Associated Press.
I just don't know if I can be this tightly associated with something like that in the future, he added.
Schmidt founded Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which has become the most successful team in Indy Lights. The team also supplied the car Wheldon used to win the Indianapolis 500 in May, when he was driving for Bryan Herta Autosport.
Wheldon had accepted a $5 million challenge to start the race from the back of the grid, according to a report in the Daily Mail. Unfortunately, on lap 13, Wheldon drove into a 15-car pile-up that resulted in his car slamming into another and catapulting into a catch fence, cockpit-first, where it burst into flames.
Wheldon was declared dead two hours after being rushed to a hospital and is survived by a wife and two children.
Wheldon and Schmidt had teamed up to win the $5 million that was offered by IndyCar to any non-full-time driver who could win the race.
The partnership ended in a horrific way when the car crash left Wheldon dead and Schmidt devastated.
I still feel like I'm in a state of shock, Schmidt said.