Dan Wheldon’s crash

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    @damonsmedley I think you may be thinking of Jeff Krosnoff, who went through a barrier and into a tree in a crash at Toronto in 1996, and was killed (along with a marshal).


    Just YouTubed that crash. Absolutely horrific.


    @ajokay The account of it in Steve Olvey’s book “Rapid Response” is revealing if harrowing stuff – you could say that about several passages in that book, actually.

    It’s definitely worth a read, as CART and F1 faced parallel safety challenges and a lot of what CART did was innovative and helped save lives not just in that series but in other forms of racing as well.

    AMG Fan

    I don’t really agree with Randy Bernard on a particular point. The only difference with the Las Vegas race, and previous other races on 1.5 mile ovals, was that the drivers were going three and even four wide immediately when the green flag fell. Apart from that, Las Vegas was a reply of the wide open and nose-to-tail racing that’s been happening since 1997. It’s no good clutching straws at fencing poles, the fundamentals of flat out, nose-to-tail racing is what needs addressing. Racing is very dangerous, but IndyCar racing on 1.5 mile ovals with the current HP and downforce is an accident waiting to happen – which so many accidents have sadly proved.

    I can only imagine, but if you’re running at 220 mph with somebody right in front of you, behind you and beside you – you must have virtually no time to react to a crash. It’s simply ridiculous with open wheel cars.

    IndyCar needs to be racing at short, flat ovals like the Milwaukee Mile, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Richmond. That to me would result in sustainable, safe-ish and exciting IndyCar oval racing. The turns are tight so that the drivers have to blend off the throttle or brake in the corners, making pack racing is impossible. Pack racing is a terrible spectacle as well, it isn’t real racing. The drivers stay pinned to the throttle and get told by spotters where to position their respective cars. Racing at a track like Milwaukee would bring back driver finesse and input of getting off the throttle and braking into corners.

    Flatter tracks also provide far less grip than highly banked tracks, meaning drivers cannot maintain speed on a higher line whilst flat out – also eliminating endless side-by-side action.
    The main problem is that the outgoing IndyCar wasn’t powerful enough, and had too much downforce in oval configuration – meaning it was pretty easy for them to go flat out. Racing at 1.5 ovals would actually work if the new cars were insanely powerful; I’m talking in the region of 900 HP. But that’s not realistically going to happen, even though turning the wick up on the turbo’s would be pretty easy. By having such powerful cars, it would force the drivers to lift off the throttle or brake for the corners – thus creating separation and genuinely interesting racing at 1.5 mile ovals.

    But because more powerful cars isn’t going to happen; racing at short, flat ovals is the only way drivers will have to lift off the gas or brake. Indianapolis is the only big oval that currently works because it has flat and tighter corners than Texas, for example. It’s a sad situation for IndyCar, because racing at short, flat ovals is not financially viable without a promoter to pay the sanctioning fee’s – so it’s hard to imagine IndyCar returning to flat ovals any time soon.


    Las Vegas was a reply of the wide open and nose-to-tail racing that’s been happening since 1997.

    I think it was similar to but not the same as. The degree of closeness of the pack racing at Las Vegas was highly unusual – in excess of what had commonly been the case before.

    As I wrote back in October:

    Two weeks earlier at Kentucky, an oval of similar length, within ten laps of the start the first six cars had spread out and were covered by two seconds. The same was the case in the last race at Texas on another similar layout.

    But at Las Vegas the field remained incredibly tight throughout the opening laps. The first 21 cars were still covered by two seconds after seven laps.

    Rethinking oval racing for IndyCar after Las Vegas

    AMG Fan

    I see what you mean Keith; the drivers were bunched all over the track, even after seven laps. You don’t usually see that at other 1.5 mile ovals at such an early stage. You know there’s something wrong when a driver can stay pinned to the throttle in the third groove. I don’t wish to sound like a broken record, but if the drivers were forced to lift off the gas in the corners – that wouldn’t even be remotely possible without crashing every time.

    The thing about the racing at Vegas though, is that the drivers simply race like that towards the end of 1.5 mile oval races – as opposed to the start. What I’m trying to say, is that it was unusual at how quickly they started to go three wide in the turns – but it merely happened at a different stage of the race. The drivers are not to blame though, as they have no choice but to go flat out all over the track or get run over from behind – it’s the only way to gain position at the end.

    The IndyCar racing on 1.5 mile ovals is akin to NASCAR plate racing, where separation is hard to achieve and the drivers stay wide open for the whole lap. Fortunately, they only do that four times a year – IndyCar did that at almost every race in the early years of IRL. More horsepower, less downforce, tyres that degrade more? All I know, is that drivers staying flat out around a whole lap is terrible to watch and is lethal in open wheel cars. Going 220 mph is fine on the straights, but not in the corners whilst flat out.

    I don’t doubt that all 1.5 mile ovals have their caveats, Vegas included – but the flat out, side-by-side racing is almost identical at whatever 1.5 mile oval it happens to be – at whatever stage of a race. The race at Fontana is going to be interesting next year, hopefully it won’t be an action reply of the past…


    I think I was like a lot of other people in blaming the field size for parts of the accident, but after reading the report, it just seems like a lot of very odd factors coalesced into a horrible freak accident. I think I agree that the degree of movement open to the drivers meant that there was far greater scope for a crash to occur. Would it have been safer with less cars? Probably, but I don’t think it was as great a factor in this crash as a lot of us initially thought. Hopefully the new car design will be helpful in preventing the cars going airborn the way they did from now on.


    I do find it encouraging that people are beginning to accept that the field size wasn’t as great a contributory factor as was initially assumed by some. The last thing you need after a tragedy like this is a misdiagnosis of what went wrong leasing to knee-jerk rule changes which fail to address the core problem and potentially compromise the sport.


    I have to admit that I was surprised by IndyCar’s findings that the field size for that oval made no significant difference to the severity of the accident. But I’m not an expert and these officials and investigators are – so if they say less cars wouldn’t have saved Dan, I’ll believe them.

    AMG Fan

    The ironic aspect of some people thinking that the size of the field was too large for a small track, is that a 1.5 mile oval in USA is considered big – one mile or less is considered a short track.

    NASCAR runs 43 cars at Bristol and Martinsville which are half mile circuits – and they manage just fine. When IndyCar ran as a unified series in 2008 at Richmond and Milkaewee, both of which are one mile or less in length, there were 26 entries. There were no issues with the size of the field because the drivers properly raced each other in the turns – thus creating separation. It goes back to drivers properly driving the cars with finesse, and there being a limit of cornering speeds, not just steering the car whilst running wide open – the former can realistically only happen on flatter ovals.

    I hope that IndyCar’s top brass knew that the size of the field had nothing to do with the accident before the report, it’s incredibly basic and obvious. The accident was a product of what’s happened for years; drivers that cannot get away from each other, running whichever groove they like, with all drivers running full throttle for endless laps.

    To me, the bigger issue of ridiculous racing on 1.5/2.0 mile ovals needs to be looked at – it would be too short-sighted to only look the causes of Wheldon’s tragic death. Whether it’s Wheldon’s accident at Vegas or Dario’s flip at Michigan. In general, all 1.5/2.0 mile highly banked ovals are unsuitable; with cars that have virtually limitless levels of grip because of the progressive banking in the corners and cars that don’t have enough horsepower.

    I was watching the 2008 Richmond race the other day, the drivers lifted off the throttle for the entry of corners, and would only get back to the throttle of exits of corners. The drivers braked into the corners whilst in traffic too. That’s called real driving, and that kind of oval racing is what IndyCar badly needs. Even with the underpowered IndyCar’s, the turns were tight so drivers had no choice but to back off in the turns.

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