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British IndyCar Sensation Dan Wheldon Dies

Posted on the 17 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Dan Wheldon Indy 500 Racer

A motor-racing crash in Las Vegas on Sunday left British-born Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon dead at 33. Photo Credit: mdf3530

A fifteen-car pile-up early in the 300-mile IndyCar Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday has killed 33-year-old British-born motor-racing legend and 2011 Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon, The New York Times reported. His car flipped into the air when it hit fellow-racer Paul Tracy’s car and landed in the flaming wreckage of a pileup ahead. The pileup was caused by veteran racer Will Power ploughing into Alex Lloyd ahead of him, and sprayed debris across the track, causing Tracy to slow down. Indy cars race at speeds of around 220 miles per hour; Wheldon stood to claim $5 million of prizes if he won the race.

Tearful tributes have streamed in from Wheldon’s native Emberton, Buckinghamshire to Korea, the location of yesterday’s Formula One race, The Daily Telegraph reported; Wheldon had a close rivalry with fellow British racecar driver Jensen Button, but took to US circuits because of lack of funding according to the Daily Mirror, which lauded him as one of the “unsung heros of British motorsport.” He is survived by his wife Susie and sons Sebastian and Oliver.

The words Wheldon wrote about the his chances 24-hours before the race on a blog for USA Today are hauntingly prescient: “it will be pure entertainment. It’s going to be a pack race, and you never know how that’s going to turn out.”

Motor-racing is an unsafe sport. This is the “painful truth” insisted Tom Cary of The Daily Telegraph. Cary lamented Wheldon’s passing, saying he would have been “huge” in Formula One, and noted that the incident tragically reminds us “that safety in motor racing can never be guaranteed despite the remarkable improvements in safety.”

Safety concerns had been raised before Sunday’s event. Wheldon’s friend and fellow driver, Dario Franchitti told The New York Times last Thursday: “The cars are going to be inches apart, both to the sides and behind and in front of you, at speeds of over 220 miles an hour.” Speaking after the race, he said of Wheldon: “He was a charmer. Then he became this loving family guy who is still charming, but he had this whole new side to him.”

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