IndyCar participants and enthusiasts are mourning the loss of one of their most prominent drivers, in a dark day for the sport.
Dan Wheldon, a 33-year-old British driver, was unable to survive the injuries suffered in a horrific crash in Las Vegas on Sunday.
In a fiery 15-car wreck during lap 15 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Wheldon's car flew over another vehicle and landed in a catch fence just outside Turn Two.
The Emberton, England-native had won 16 races in his nine-year career, including the Indy 500 in 2005 and 2011, and was well-respected in the sport.
Wheldon had to be extricated from his vehicle and was airlifted to University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead two hours later.
Drivers described the fiery crash as the worst they had ever seen. Several cars burst into flames, and debris was spread all over the track,
Officials decided to call the race, and drivers did a five-lap tribute for Wheldon.
Wheldon started at the back of the 34-car field and could have had a payday of $5 million if he won the race. However, Wheldon couldn't steer clear of a wreck that started when two cars touched tires.
Many competitors and fans were left in tears after the announcement of Wheldon's passing.
Danica Patrick, perhaps the most famous Indy driver of all-time, posted this message on Twitter: There are no words for today. Myself and so many others are devastated. I pray for suzi and the kids that god will give them strength.
It was like a movie scene which they try to make as gnarly as possible, said Patrick, according to the Associated Press. It was debris everywhere across the whole track, you could smell the smoke, you could see the billowing smoke on the back straight from the car. There was a chunk of fire that we were driving around. You could see cars scattered.
The scene was chaotic, as it was difficult to tell which car was which, as some didn't slow down. J.R. Hildebrand and Pippa Mann were also injured in the crash, and both are expected to remain in the hospital overnight. Townsend Bell was left upside down upon the accident.
Some points of impact were so devastating workers had to patch holes in the asphalt, according to CBS News.
Points-leader Dario Franchitti avoided the crash. His wife, actress Ashley Judd, was seen dabbing her eyes from tears after learning about Wheldon's fate.
Wheldon's death marks the first fatality in IndyCar since Paul Dana was killed at Homestead in 2006.
After the accident, many are asking how such an accident could happen. According to CBS News, a journalist was quoted as saying: Everybody kind of expected that there was going to be at least one or two really big crashes.
There was total concern about everything, said Sports Illustrated writer Bruce Martin, to CBS's The Early Show program. 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.
IndyCar is now trying to learn more about such a tragedy could be avoided.
Jim Peltz of the Los Angeles Times wrote this on Monday: The safety debate centers on the fact that the IndyCar vehicles, which all have the same bodies and engines, can't avoid so-called pack racing at very high speeds on a circuit as small and banked as the Las Vegas track. And any contact between the open-cockpit, Indy-style cars typically is dangerous.
Here is the video from the accident: