After the tragic death of Dan Wheldon on Sunday, IndyCar and Las Vegas Speedway are investigating the racetrack to see if it was too fast and too short to be safe.
Wheldon died after a 15-car crash during the 11th lap of the race. Two other drivers were hospitalized, but Wheldon died from blunt trauma to the head, according to Clark County Coroner Michael Murphy.
The Las Vegas Speedway is a mile shorter than the Indianapolis 500 track, meaning that drivers are turning for almost the entire race. The course is also rather narrow, meaning that the drivers were riding three and four abreast. On Sunday, there were 34 cars racing, which was more than were racing at this year's Indy 500, which Wheldon won.
Additionally, the track is often used for NASCAR races, which are generally slower than the open-wheel car races of the Indy series. The Formula 1-style cars reach top speeds of nearly 230 miles per hour, compared to NASCAR's 190 miles per hour.
Las Vegas Speedway President Chris Powell defended the run after watching the replay.
We as a speedway make sure we provide a venue that they come in and make an assessment when they're ready to race -- and they did that exact thing, Powell said Monday, according to ABC News. Our speedway conforms to every regulation that any sanctioning body has ever held it to, and we're very proud of that.
Whether or not the track is at fault, drivers risk their lives every time they hit the racetrack. Death is always waiting, always a possibility. The drivers have to put the thought of tragedy out of their minds.
But for Sam Schmidt, head of auto-racing team Sam Schmidt Motorsports, the death of Wheldon might be too much to bear. Schmidt, whose career as a driver ended after a paralyzing crash in 2000, said the accident on Sunday might cause to leave the sport for good.
I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t — you’ve got to think about it, Schmidt said, according to The Boston Herald. It’s one thing to take the risk yourself and my situation, it’s something I was doing since I was five 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.
I just don’t know if I can be this tightly associated with something like that in the future.
What's certain is that during a race, a driver will do whatever it takes to win. On an improper track, that means that drivers are taking extra risks.
We don't think about things like this, racer Tony Kanaan said to ESPN. As race car drivers, we have to block out that possibility. Unfortunately when it happens it's really hard.
What we do is dangerous and we face that every day, Kanaan added. It's been happening for years, for decades. It's just hard to swallow, but we have to move on. We're racers; we love what we do. Eventually we're going to have to turn the page and remember him with the great memories we have. I know exactly what he would say if I told him I was going to quit: He'd say he was going to take my place.