Let me preface by saying that I appreciate all of your efforts put forth over the years. As a passionate race fan, I am thankful for your organization and the influence that you put forth upon motorsports in North America. The tragedy that occurred during the Indy Car sanctioned event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16th 2011 which claimed the life of Dan Wheldon was a tragic occurrence. Being a race fan, I am well aware of the inherited danger involved in the sport. As cruel as motorsports can be at times, and as much sadness it has caused me in the past I am still enough aware to make the conclusion that drivers involved in tragic accidents are not victims because the assumption of risk is assumed and implied. However, the circumstances leading up to the Indy Car season finale at Las Vegas has left me with questions I have yet to find an answer too. I cannot allow myself to draw the standard conclusion of the accident which claimed Dan Wheldon’s life as simply a matter of inherited danger and circumstances.
Current Indy Car CEO Randy Bernard along with President of Race Operations Brian Barnhart made numerous negligent and culpable decisions leading up to the Indy Car season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The environment around the race itself was manipulated in an attempt to create a “buzz” around the sport. This included starting the race with 34 cars, essentially adding 12 cars to the standard field. Many of the drivers piloting those machines without full time rides in the series and limited experience in Indy Cars and on high speed ovals. A field of this size along with the lack of driver experience piloting these machines has never been attempted on a 1 ½ mile oval in an Indy Car sanctioned event. The track itself recently repaved and rebanked in 2006 essentially allowed Indy Cars to drive “flat out” three wide and wheel to wheel. Considering some of the mumblings from track officials about the quantity of cars on the track and concerns expressed by the drivers prior to the race in regard to the amount of cars, the flat out nature of the racing, and concerns over inexperience on the race track, I believe that anyone with a knowledge of the sport understands the increased potential for an enormous incident with those factors deliberately executed by the sanctioning body.
With the current 8 year old spec Dallara chassis used by Indy Car, which has a historical track record for getting airborne after wheel to wheel contact, mostly due to a flawed aerodynamic formula also contributed to the accident. Along with aerodynamic and horsepower restrictions implied to promote side by side racing, airborne cars coming into contact with catch fencing is not new to Indy Car. Rather it has become all too common. I will not site previous examples of these issues as I am making an assumption that considering the duties of you organization you are well aware of the ominous track record this chassis has which has caused previous deaths and numerous serious and career ending injuries to drivers in the past.
I feel strongly that the circumstances involving the environment in which this race took place deliberately added to and inherently goes above the threshold of “applied and assumed risk” that any race car driver are willing and able to rationally accept. I am not in the position to assume negligence in these matters or make claims to any liability involved with the circumstances pointed out. However, from the surface I find these matters of ignorance in regard to a conscience disregard for driver safety perpetrated by the sanctioning body easily recognizable and tangibly contributing to the tragic death of Dan Wheldon.
I respect and appreciate the duties of your organization. I simply write this as a passionate and concerned race fan only within the ideal of not seeing Open Wheel or any other faction of the sport that I love deliberately stepping beyond the natural and implied risks of the sport. Considering the crash that claimed Dan Wheldon’s life was the cruelest and violent I have ever witnessed, I must look beyond the inherent danger of the sport itself to try to find answers. Thank you for your time and understanding.