Post Dan Wheldon Tragedy Reaction Review to Safety on Banked Ovals
A memorial to Dan Wheldon is displayed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the British-born driver was killed in an accident on Sunday. Image Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images via guardian.co.uk
Post Dan Wheldon Tragedy Reaction Review To Safety On Banked Ovals
The safety debate centers on the fact that IndyCar Dallara vehicles, which all have the same bodies and engines, can not avoid pack racing at very high speeds on a circuit as small and banked as the Las Vegas track, and this sets up a condition that is dangerous with open-cockpit, Indy-style cars. The wide track bed combined with steep banking and the mushroom shaped vortex wash that comes out from behind the cars, set up a very unstable mix.
Driving the Go Daddy No. 7, Andretti Autosport Dallara, Danica Patrick posted the fastest practice time with a staggering 224.719 mph on Oct. 13. After learning her time, Patrick's reaction proved prophetic.
"It's friggin' fast here," said Patrick. "Almost a 225 lap is like Indy speeds. The track is nice and smooth and we’ll be three-wide out there, which will be exciting. The race is going to be crazy and the crashes will be spectacular."
Danica, who will be driving in NASCAR next year, was not the only driver talking up the danger of the course in the days before the race.
"It's so fast and you're so close to each other, it's exciting," veteran driver, and IMS Radio commentator, Hewlett-Packard sponsored Davey Hamilton told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, also noting that he expected four wide racing. "There's really no room for error."
Driver comments after the Wheldon tragedy where 15 cars were collected in a fiery mess confirmed the fear of this unstable mix.
"We all know this is part of the sport," driver Oriol Servia said of the danger. "We all had a bad feeling about this place in particular just because of the high banking and how easy it was to go flat" out on the throttle.
"Within five laps people started to do crazy stuff," Dario Franchitti said immediately after the accident. "I wanted no part of it. I love hard racing, but that to me is not what it's about. I said before, this is not a suitable track. You can't get away from anybody. One small mistake and you have a massive wreck."
"Now we need to rethink the way we're doing things," said Tony Kanaan, who started on the pole.Continued on the next page