IndyCar crash investigation sheds little light on series’ future

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.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Editor's note: IBJ is now using a new comment system. Your Disqus account will no longer work on the IBJ site. Instead, you can leave a comment on stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Past comments are not currently showing up on stories, but they will be added in the coming weeks. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.