Racer Dan Wheldon knew the risks — and accepted them

Kellen Brauer

Kellen Brauer
Kellen Brauer

GROSSMONT COLLEGE- Having raced Motocross most of my life, I know the way motorsports racers around the world feel when they get behind the wheel or throw their leg over the bike.

When IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon strapped in to take part in the Indy 300 race this last Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he was well aware of the danger of what he was about to do. He knew the risk he ran by racing but he probably didn’t think about it.
On lap 11 of the 200-lap race, this risk became a harsh reality. At speeds of 200-plus miles per hour, two cars in front of Wheldon touched slightly and began to spin out, collecting a few more cars with them. Wheldon was leading a small group behind them and came up on the crash without enough time to slow down. Wheldon’s race car launched into the air, flipped twice, and crashed into the outside wall.

As the dust settled, 15 cars of the 34-car field were drawn into the crash and some of the vehicles remained on fire scattered across the back straightaway. The worst news of all, Dan Wheldon, 2005 IndyCar Champion and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, was killed.

The racing world, including myself looked on in shock and disbelief as the news of Wheldon’s death spread. It’s hard to move on in our different disciplines of racing when someone of Wheldon’s stature is taken from us.

However, all racers can take solace in knowing that Wheldon spent the last moments of his life following his dreams and doing what he loved. All racers share that same feeling towards their sport.

Nobody forces any of us to do it. We accept the risk and choose to compete in motorsports despite the danger involved because we love it.

Wheldon was only 33-years-old and was survived by his wife and two young children. He was certainly much too young to have left us.

And though the motorsports community will move on, we will never forget. Between races, ironically, Wheldon had been testing a new IndyCar with improved safety features that is scheduled to debut in 2012.  There are reports the chassis will be named for him.  Wheldon will forever remain in our memory not only for his talent but also for helping IndyCar to improve safety in the areas that need it.

I will remember Wheldon as someone who was fearless, as he raced in a sport that is becoming regarded as one of the more dangerous, if not the most dangerous, forms of racing in the world. He also stands with his late countrymen, Jim Clark and Graham Hill, as one of the few British drivers to win the iconic Indy 500.

Rest in peace Dan Wheldon, though you may not be with us anymore, you will certainly never be forgotten!

Brauer is a student in MediaComm 132. He may be contacted at [email protected]