IndyCar, the American-based open-wheel auto-racing sanctioning body, lost one of their most prominent drivers after Dan Wheldon, the 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 considered among the most popular drivers in the sport.
Wheldon had to be extricated from his vehicle and was airlifted to University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
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.
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.
Randy Bernard, the chief executive officer for IndyCar, officially announced Wheldon's death two hours later.
IndyCar is very sad to announce that Dan Wheldon has passed away from unsurvivable injuries, Bernard said. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family today. IndyCar, its drivers and owners, have decided to end the race. In honor of Dan Wheldon, the drivers have decided to do a five-lap salute to in his honor.
Many competitors and fans were left in tears after the announcement of Wheldon's passing.
Danica Patrick 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.
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.
Here is the video from the accident: