IndyCar crash investigation sheds little light on series' future

December 15, 2011
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IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard and President of Operations Brian Barnhart today went step-by-step through the series of events that led to the accident that killed Dan Wheldon at the series’ season finale in Las Vegas this year.

Part of the study released today found that Wheldon was killed when his head hit a catch fence pole.

The study concluded that the experience level of the racers wasn’t a major factor in the crash nor was the number of cars—34—on the track. Instead, IndyCar’s study concluded the overall dynamic of the track which allowed cars to move freely up and down the track was a major cause of the accident. As a result, Bernard said the series’ will not return to the Las Vegas track in 2012 and not until more testing is done there with the series’ new car.

“There are multiple factors that are not uncommon to racing that came together in a way that claimed Dan's life,” Barnhart said.

There is clearly heightened concern about racing on ovals, especially short, steep-banked ovals, and Bernard announced that a committee has been formed to further study oval racing in the series’ future.

Bernard and Barnhart carefully detailed what happened before and during the crash—including the fact that Wheldon went from 100 percent throttle to 55 percent throttle 3.8 seconds before he first made contact in the multi-car crash on lap 12 of the Las Vegas race, and shortly after that he reduced the throttle to 10 percent, where it remained until he made contact with the car in front of him. The study findings concluded that Wheldon hit a maximum speed of 224 on the lap he crashed, and was going 165 miles an hour when he made contact with the car in front of him.

Other than mentioning that the 2012 IndyCar schedule is being released today or tomorrow, Bernard made little mention of the series’ future, leaving many questions unanswered.

Concerns remain about the safety and performance ability of the new 2012 IndyCars that teams begin taking delivery on today, and the composition of the 2012 schedule. Many fear that there will be too many road and street races and too few ovals.

It also remains unclear how or if the findings of the Las Vegas crash investigation will have a long-term impact on IndyCar racing.

It could be argued that today's press conference was not the time or place for Bernard to lay out his plan to re-gain in 2012 and beyond whatever momentum he picked up for the series this year.

But eventually, and sooner would be better than later, that's going to need to be one of the CEO's top priorities.

  • Good Job INDYCAR
    Thanks are in order to Randy Bernard and Brian Barnhart for providing granular details about the investigation. No doubt the critics will still criticize. That's what they do. I admire the accountability steps taken.

    Hopefully the results will not be used as part of the witch hunt by road racing enthusiasts against ovals, which have had a place for over 100 years.

    As Randy says, the schedule will be out today or tomorrow, so we shall see.
  • Questions
    Short and sweet, at least it wasn't blamed on a bird this time. I guess the video footage eliminated that excuse this time. So the experience factor of drivers in the race and the number of cars weren't "major factors"? But they were factors. So who will be held responsible for those factors and what safety measures will be implemented to avoid an incident like this in the future?
  • We are launching
    our own independent investigation, OSHA and Congressional involvement
  • responsiblity
    Apparently this can be attributed to an act of God. No one seems to be taking responsibility for anything, not the # of cars on the track, the promotion that prompted Wheldon to come flying from the back of the pack, holding a race on a track apparently not suitable for IndyCars, etc. Well, maybe it was just a racing accident. But I was more than a little disappointed in IndyCar's press conference today. By the way, is anyone taking responsibility for the series' future?
  • Funny thing is
    we do not need to do anything but let the failed IRL formula play itself out. :eatingpopcorn:
  • That has really
    worked out grate hasn't hooter. how many oval tracks down? 8 street parades in 2012 to save the all american oval series,,,you people are beyond hilarious to the point of laughing stocks
  • Hey Dipsicle
    I bet you $10,000 the France family doesn't even derive a chuckle out of you people's situation any longer,,,just a shaking of the heads
  • unanswered questions for Randy
    Here are a couple unanswered questions for Randy Bernard: Why wasn't notice given about this important press conference until 10 p.m. the night before? Why was this press conference held on the very day teams started taking delivery of the new 2012 cars? Why was this announcement made on the same day Sarah Fisher announced she is opening a shiny new shop on Speedway's Main Street? Answer: Because they were hoping to make the announcement that they take zero responsibility for the accident that caused the death of Dan Wheldon while no one was watching and/or listening. This may work on people blinded by their love of fast cars and the tradition of Indy, but not people who really care about the sport of auto racing. This was supposed to be an investigation, not a cooling down to forget period. This whole thing today was 100% crazy!
  • 166 mph
    166mph was the speed when Dan Wheldon clipped the the tire that launched him some 325feet through air and track-side fencepost fencing that claimed his life.

    Just remember this: Indycar staff ok'd and promoted a race at Las Vegas in 2011. They even tested there. Now, all of a sudden the track is dangerous, too many lanes to race on...but the cars were ok. Catch fences did their job, even if the fenceposts are trackside.

    When Davey Hamilton sheared off his feet at Texas in 2001, track-side fencepost placement was at Texas. Kenny Brack got caught in it in 2003. Same thing in Las Vegas in 2011 that took Dan Wheldon. nothing was learned...this is gross negligence.

    The shear ignorance displayed by Indycar officials at today's press conference was nothing short of astounding. Wake up racing community...this is the ineptitude that is leading the sport.
  • LOL
    Well, the litany of ignorant responses above was fairly predictable given the obsessed nature of the youthful critics.
  • 8 Street Parades
    on one calendar,,,don't you need a new open wheel series, Hoot?
  • Unsafe at any speed
    At 166mph, seems Indycar is truely unsafe at any speed.

    Looking for more carnage aren't you Disciple?
  • Real Drivers Wanted
    Nope. Just great, close racing contested by talented drivers who are willing to lay it on the line. Euros wearing panties can leave as far as I'm concerned.
  • Xenophobia
    Wow, you need to get help Mr. anti-foreigner. I suspect they're ruining the sport of your fence-post luvin' fluke series?
  • Wrong Again, Kid
    I'm pretty far from anti-foreigner. I am anti-panty wearing on male racing drivers.
  • You are not credible
    You said..."Euros wearing panties".

    You are guilty AGAIN, Mr. Xenophobe.

  • Since the top young American drivers
    are all in Europe, I'd be happy to see your series driverless.
  • reading over that whitewash for an investigation
    reveals that it is Tiny's heroes who are wearing the panties
  • Nothing to see here, except a schedule.
    I commend the series for finally enterprising us the provision of a schedule. It is long past due. The lack thereof made IndyCar appear rediculously minor-league, almost like a non-sporting entity. It is mid-December now. That is long of tooth for the release of a race schedule by any measure.

    As for the Wheldon Report, it was a fairly pedestrian attempt at closure. That is all the press conference amounted to. They reiterated the obvious, presented some trivial data associated with the fortuitous events that led to his death, and ultimately shunned responsibility. What more did you expect?

    IndyCar seemed to contradict itself today and I submit that offered them precious little service. Luckily, the series is so unpopular, few will notice, even fewer will have the ability to digest the contravention. The rest of us will once again come to terms with their clumsy, amateur-ish ways, as we always have.

    • You know predictable!
      Once again the real display of predictability comes from the one complaining of comments being predictable.

      I'm thinking anyone that knows his routine could have guessed his responses, maybe even written them word-for-word.

      Funny anyone should LOL about this in any manner no matter the side anyone takes regarding this accident and investigation.

      And other predictability is apparent too.

      Did anyone ever think Indy would take responsibility for anything related to this crash.

      In all my years of following this sport, they always use the "that's racin'" excuse.

      It is always "those brave young men giving their lives for our pleasure by doing what they love!"

      It is almost romantic!

      So IMS, just pat yourselves on the head and move on, safe in knowing it is what it is. Just like you always do.

      Meanwhile the general public draws conclusions, and they move on, And, away.
    • F1 saw it differently
      The deaths of Ratzenberger and Senna in May 1994 were not viewed as "that's racin'." Not by any party involved. Small wonder F1 is extemporaneously more sophisticated and popular than the micro-psuedo-professional sport of IndyCar. The contrast is stunning if not expected.

      Mr. Bernard and the series have done a delightful job in "CYA", I will give them credit. I imagine there was a fair amount of soiled executive trouser that Sunday.

      Interesting. Yes, time to move on. The series must now focus on sheer survival.

      Crude and unspohisticated as it is, sophomoric in execution, and depressingly irrelevant, one can't help but root for the underdog. And the IndyCar Series is underdog in every way.

    • Even Toronto SAWED down the trees
      Krosnoff's legacy is safer street racing....

      What was Renna's? Or Wheldon's? Is it truely "sh*t happens"? That's what this report dumps upon the great gomer unwashed...

      Speedway and Indycar ignorance, catch it!
    • Not So Fast
      Not so fast. Indycar officials may think they've dodged a bullet, but this lame attempt at an investigation report has added fuel to the fire. Let the games now begin. I hope they get what they deserve.
    • The Series' Future?
      is as a feeder series for F3, according to one who has tested the new car
    • Be happy....
      ...a news organization with credibility like 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, or Rock Center doesn't investigate the IRL and it's accident coverup investigations.

      Unfortunately, no one really gives a crap anymore to bother with it. Consider yourself lucky IMS because if the viral videos of the IRL/Indycar series flips-flops-fly cars and the stupid pack racing accidents over the past 15 years get into the right hands, well, your credibility would be even less than the ZERO it is now. And deservingly so...
    • Fascinating comment on Flying Cars
      From SpeedTV's Robin Miller article today labelled "It's still open wheel, and it's still dangerous"..:

      "“We have to stop the cars from flying and taking off and the new car has several features to try and stop that,” replied Will Phillips, the vice president of technology whose acumen with aerodynamics, engineering and race cars has been a welcome and long overdue addition to the IZOD IndyCar Series."

      This certainly implies that flying cars and having them get hit by fenceposts is a well known "phenomena" and one they're trying to correct.

      Do you know there are 20+ examples of the flying cars dating back to 1997 in the IRL, and this is the first admission that the IRL turned a blind eye to it all???

      Fred Nation once said "Our cars don't fly"...Will Phillips seem to contradict your statement Fred. Why has it taken 9 years for this admission to come forward (and not even in an accident investigation report)??? COVERUP, IMS style!
    • It's Christmas so...
      ....I don't advocate the termination of Mr. Bernard during the Holiday Season. However, I would suggest the series request his resignation papers by January 15, 2012 at COB. That would give the series fairly adequate time to find a suitable replacement and offer Mr. Bernard the luxury of hooking on with a summertime fair somewhere whereupon he can get the ferris wheels and corn dog carts properly positioned and find the fastest porky pigs one earth for the big races.
    • The IRL
      was here
    • I see where GAnassi
      says the IRL has whittled the ovals down to 3. hahahahaha LULZ ROTFLMAO Go get them Defender
    • There is little doubt...
      ...the series is in the final throes. Granted, they are long and agonizing throes, but the flatline is near. I give the series 2012, maybe 2013, and that is it. The powers-that-be, at all levels, have destroyed the sport and what is left is not of interest to all but a very small group of mostly aging white men who cherish Parnelli Jones, Sid Collins, the snakepit days, and worship Rocket Rick. Nobody else pays the slightest bit of attention unless someone is killed.
    • First day of Winter, four days before Christmas...
      ....and the lame series cannot produce a published schedule and furthers their image of ineptitude by trotting out Mr. Bernard to say they promise to have the 2013 schedule out by September and they will add a season finale for 2012 by February.

      And they call this a professional series?

      The more Mr. Bernard talks his gobbeldy-gook, the more it becomes apparent he is at the helm of a sinking ship.

      Mr. Bernard, do the right thing. Tender your resignation before you go down in the tragedy. There are corn dog carts and kiddie-o'-whirls that need straighten' out pardner.
    • What do you get when you design a race car by committee and build it to a price?
      John Oreovicz in todays ESPN article:

      "The Dallara DW12 Indy car, which has an alarming number of people involved in the Izod IndyCar Series only half-joking that Dallara is Italian for disaster."

      Great legacy to Dan Wheldon, huh? Scott Dixon called it a "pig". PLUS, 98% in a recent AOW online poll said it's HORRIBLE.

      Another FUMBLE by the Hulman crew, and on exit of the coverup of Wheldon accident investigation. Great work, the IRL legacy lives on!
    • That new Ritters
      where the turn 4 stands used to be is looking more and more likely ever day
    • The saga of the Dipsicle's IRL
      Phoenix was an Indy car stronghold from 1964 until the open wheel split in 1996

    • The Continuing Saga of the Dipsicle's IRL
      it finally had the plug pulled in 2005 because of pathetic attendance

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