This is all that needs to be said…
This is all that needs to be said…
The IZOD IndyCar Series returned to the Iowa Speedway June 22nd for some old fashioned Saturday night short track racing. Racing at Iowa is uniquely challenging for the IndyCar Paddock as the track surface is only 7/8 of a mile in length, but progressive banking gives the track the characteristics of a superspeedway and lightning fast lap times under 18 seconds. IZOD IndyCar drivers requested a low downforce setup similar to that run at Texas Motor Speedway earlier in the month. The result was a race that the drivers had to drive instead of mashing the gas pedal and hoping for the best. The hope was the race would be much like Texas with competitive side-by-side racing but with the driver a big part of the winning equation. Iowa Speedway delivered!
Over recent years, the IZOD IndyCar Series has not shied away from trying new formats to spice up their schedule and encourage new fans to pay attention. In Iowa, they tried a new twist to the race weekend which was qualifying determined by three heat races as opposed to single car qualifying averaging the speed of two green flag laps. Practice times determined the field for the three heat races with odd numbered cars from 11th on back fighting for the inside lane and even numbered cars fighting for 10th on back for the outside lane. The top-9 practice times were the only cars able to contend for the Pole Position ultimately won by Dario Franchitti. The format was interesting and worth exploring, but the contention for most drivers was that every heat race should have meaning for the winner. A transfer spot to the final heat race for the Pole would remedy that situation.
The race’s already late start time was delayed by over an hour due to heavy rains earlier in the day. Props to NBC Sports Network’s broadcast team as they navigated the rain delay by offering compelling interviews with just about every driver in the Paddock. The Iowa Speedway crew completed the track drying procedure and drivers were called to their cars. Polesitter Dario Franchitti saw his night come to an end before it started as his Honda engine gave out on the warm-up laps ending his day. The race restarted and Helio Castroneves of Team Penske benefitted from Franchitti’s engine troubles to take the early lead being chased by James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay while all three drivers navigated early lap traffic. The early laps provided exactly what the drivers were hoping for…competitive side-by-side racing but the cars were a handful to drive.
Will Power suffered another night to forget in Iowa when, early in the race, Power navigated his Verizon Team Penske car to the low side of the racetrack in turn 2. The problem was that the No. 5 CITGO KV Racing Technology car piloted by EJ Viso was closing on Power and was inside the Team Penske driver at the time. The two cars made contact sending both cars into the SAFER barrier ending the race for both drivers. Power later admitted to his mistake and patched up any ill feelings with Viso.
As happens frequently in auto racing, strategy became paramount storyline in the race and Roger Penske looked to have given Ryan Briscoe an opportunity to win the race on a great fuel strategy. At the end of a previous caution, Penske called Briscoe to bring the No. 2 Transitions Adaptive Lenses Dallara Chevrolet to the pits to top off the fuel in the car to go a little bit longer on the next stint than every other driver on the track. As the next round of green flag stops cycled through, Briscoe found himself on a lap all on his own and was looking to be in a great position if a caution came out. The caution came out, but, unfortunately, Briscoe was the driver in the wall bringing out the yellow. Briscoe maintained the low lane as he was going to pit the next lap when he was dive bombed by Josef Newgarden who was just off pit lane with fresh tires. The incident resulted in an end to the race for Briscoe and Newgarden.
The cars from Andretti Autosport, as in the 2011 race, appeared to be the strongest horses in the race with only Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon able to offer consistent challenges to Michael Andretti’s stable. However, the race turned sour for another championship contender as James Hinchcliffe had his GoDaddy.com Chevrolet snap loose and get into the fence leaving Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay left to duke it out for the win. Katherine Legge spun in turn 2 with two laps to go ending the race under caution giving Ryan Hunter-Reay his second win in a row. With Power and Hinchcliffe having issues in the race and the late fade by Scott Dixon, the points were shaken up greatly in after Iowa. Power maintaned the points lead by three points over Ryan Hunter-Reay with Dixon maintaining third and Helio Castroneves leapfrogging Hinchcliffe to 4th in points.
CONGRATULATIONS TO RYAN HUNTER-REAY AND ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT: WINNERS OF THE IOWA CORN INDY 250
May 9, 2012 marks the official start of the Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Rookie Orientation program. The program should be more interesting this year than in the past due to a few factors. The first, without doubt, is this new DW12 IndyCar that will make its debut at the Brickyard in competition. For the first time since 2003, the car is the big unknown entering the famed Month of May at the Speedway and nobody really knows exactly what it will do.
Testing in April of the new Speedway aerodynamic package made great strides with the car balance and performance, but, according to Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti, the car is a difficult enigma to nail down in traffic. The testing phase is over and it is now up to the teams and their drivers to develop the setups that work at Indianapolis. Throw the three engine manufacturers into the mix and you have a recipe for drama. If the open test at Texas on Monday is any indication, Honda most certainly has the horsepower advantage on the ovals, however, through the first four races the Chevrolet has outshined their Japanese competitors in the game of fuel mileage which always plays a prominent factor in determining who drinks the milk in Victory Lane as Winner of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. The struggling Lotus powerplant enters the Month of May with, likely, only two cars. Bryan Herta Autosport and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing were released from their Lotus contracts before Brazil and it certainly looks like Dragon Racing is headed for Chevrolet starting with this week’s Rookie Orientation leaving Lotus with Simona de Silvestro and Jean Alesi only. Perhaps less could be more, however, as it will give Lotus only one full-time team to worry about and focus on and could, possibly, place their engine development program into the fast lane. Panther Racing has formed a technical alliance with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing as DRR has moved to Chevrolet power after their release from Lotus. Bryan Herta Autosport will align with Honda for the Indianapolis 500 onward through the 2012 season.
Among the storylines of Indy including the engine competition, uncertainty about the car, and driver storylines, there is also the rookie class for 2012. This could be the most interesting Rookie class in years simply because it includes Formula 1 veteran Rubens Barrichello who took the DW12 onto an oval for the first time on Monday in Texas. Barrichello will join Jean Alesi, Katherine Legge, James Jakes, Wade Cunningham, Simon Pagenaud and Bryan Clauson in the Rookie Orientation Program on Thursday while Sebastien Bourdais is being asked to do a refresher course as he has not competed on the Brickyard Speedway since 2006. Do not count Barrichello out because he has a whole month to learn the car and its intricacies and he has one of the best out there, Tony Kanaan, as his teammate and mentor.
The Indianapolis 500 field for 2012 is bound to be one of the most competitive and evenly matched in history. It took four years, but the best of CART/Champ Car and IndyCar will all finally be on the grid at Indianapolis. There may not be any Bump Day this year, but the quality of the drivers in the race will make for an epic show on May 27. In case you forgot what Indy is all about, just watch the opening video from 2011:
2012 INDY 500 ENTRY LIST:
The most important thing about this Month of May is that we as fans, competitors, and media remember the life of the great Dan Wheldon. Nobody thought when the Checkered Flag fell on Dan Wheldon’s # 98 William Rast Bryan Herta Autosport car in last year’s Indianapolis 500 signaling that he was the winner that it would his final time crossing the line first. Everybody take some time in the Month of May to wear some orange and remember what Dan meant to our sport and the legacy that he leaves behind.
R.I.P. DAN WHELDON
# 77 ALEX TAGLIANI
# 77 DAN WHELDON (KENTUCKY AND LAS VEGAS ONLY)
2011 ENGINE: Honda Indy V8
2011 SPONSORS: Bowers & Wilkins, Magnolia, William Rast
At the start of 2011, Sam Schmidt purchased the FAZZT Race Team rebranding it in his name. Paint Schemes and sponsorships were retained as was driver Alex Tagliani. In a huge upset, Tagliani won the pole position for the Indianapolis 500 and followed it up by winning the pole at Texas Motor Speedway as well. Tagliani showed flashes of brilliant speed and ability but never found victory lane due to being caught in others misfortune and bad luck. Tagliani sat out Kentucky to allow Dan Wheldon to run as a primer for his five million dollar challenge run at the IZOD IndyCar World Championships two weeks later. Wheldon fielded the car at Las Vegas while Tagliani moved to satellite operation Bryan Herta Autosport. The season ended tragically for the team as the race claimed the life of Dan Wheldon after just eleven laps causing Sam Schmidt to consider retirement.
# 77 SIMON PAGENAUD
2012 ENGINE: Honda Single Turbo V6
2012 SPONSORS: Hewlett Packard
After months of deliberation where owner Sam Schmidt mulled the team’s future in the wake of the death of Dan Wheldon, Sam Schmidt Motorsports announced they would continue competing in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2012 and hired veteran Frenchman Simon Pagenaud to drive the car. Pagenaud subbed a couple of races for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing due to injuries to drivers Justin Wilson and Ana Beatriz. Schmidt has also partnered with veteran driver Davey Hamilton giving Hamilton an ownership stake in the team and bringing along sponsor Hewlett Packard to support the team’s effort in 2012. Pagenaud should be a whiz on road and street courses this year, but likely has some work to do on the oval discipline especially if he expects to be competitive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He is a definate threat to win some races this season and should not be counted out. Look, also, for Schmidt Hamilton to partner up with other race teams to run more cars at the Indianapolis 500.
Simon Pagenaud could crack the top-10 in IZOD IndyCar Series points this season with a win a strong possibility. Pagenaud has shown his versatility in the past running sports cars so getting the handle on the DW12 shouldn’t be an issue.
# 98 DAN WHELDON (INDIANAPOLIS 500 ONLY):
#98 ALEX TAGLIANI (LAS VEGAS ONLY):
2011 ENGINE: HONDA
2011 SPONSORS: WILLIAM RAST, CURB BIG MACHINE RECORDS
For a team that only competed in two races in 2011, Bryan Herta Autosport made as big a stamp as anybody on the season. Driver Dan Wheldon was left without a full season seat in the IZOD IndyCar Series and former Andretti Green Racing teammate Bryan Herta hired the 2005 Indianapolis 500 Winner to pilot their No. 98 Dallara in the Indianapolis 500 with sponsorship from William Rast. The team loaded into the 2.5 Mile Speedway with just a fraction of the funding of the full season heavy hitters, but they were not deterred as Wheldon qualified the car in the top six on Pole Day. Come race day they became sleepers…the car in the field that nobody was talking about. As the race’s fuel mileage drama was coming to a close, Wheldon was running in second position, where he had finished the last two 500 Mile races with Panther Racing, watching rookie JR Hildebrand lead trying desperately to conserve fuel to finish the race. The white flag signaling the race’s final lap flew and the unthinkable happened. Hildebrand came up on lap traffic in the final corner, got into the marbles, and smacked the turn four wall as the orange and white car of Wheldon whizzed by to take the Indianapolis 500 win in the event’s 100th Anniversary. Wheldon crossed the yard of bricks victorious in a race short on fuel and long on drama in what would be the champion’s final race win. At the IZOD IndyCar World Championships at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Wheldon participated in a promotion where he would split a $5 million purse with a fan if he could drive from the back of the 34 car field to win. Wheldon took over the No. 77 Bower’s & Wilkins car for Sam Schmidt Motorsports for this promotion leaving the No. 98 William Rast car filled by Alex Tagliani. The race only completed 11 laps before a 15 car melee that ultimately claimed the life of Dan Wheldon.
# 98 ALEX TAGLIANI
2012 ENGINE: LOTUS TWIN TURBO V6
2012 SPONSORS: BARRACUDA NETWORKS, BOWERS & WILKINS
For 2012, Bryan Herta Autosport begins an new era in their competition joining the IZOD IndyCar Paddock full time with driver Alex Tagliani. Herta’s outfit will be one of the anchor teams for the new Lotus Twin Turbo Powerplant which could turn out to be a bit of a risk as Lotus has some ground to make up to their compatriots Chevrolet and Honda, but the team should not be dismissed given what they accomplished at Indianapolis in 2011. This team is resourceful and resilient with, no doubt, a few tricks up their sleeve. The schedule geared heavily toward road and street courses should suit driver Alex Tagliani very well given his extensive CART and Champ Car background, but Tagliani did steal poles at Indianapolis and Texas last year so he is no slouch on the ovals either and should be a threat at every track in 2012. There are rumblings, also, that rising USAC star Bryan Clauson could get an Indianapolis 500 bid in a second Bryan Herta Autosport entry, but nothing confirmed as of yet.
BHA and Alex Tagliani should finish in the top 15 in the final points standings when the season is done. A victory is very attainable and the team knows how to upset at the Brickyard so watch out come the month of May.
IT IS ALMOST TIME!!!!!!!!!!!
Get ready IndyCar fans! As of today there are 25 days remaining before the drop of the green flag on the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Season! It is TIME TO GET EXCITED! The 2012 grid could be the most evenly balanced, talented, and competitive in the history of IndyCar racing. From top to bottom, anybody in this field could pull into victory lane and stand atop the podium on any given weekend.
Just a taste of what’s to come:
The offseason in the aftermath of 2011 has been anything but quiet for the IZOD IndyCar Series. The days since October 16, 2011 have been filled with pain, healing, testing, and major changes regarding those in charge of the series. Danica Patrick has moved on to new opportunities driving stock cars in NASCAR, Brian Barnhart has been removed from competition director and director of race control in favor of a man with the same initials, and the series has moved toward providing a safer, but still exciting, product. Barnhart will remain technical director for the series but will no longer be making the decisions regarding how the races are officiated. That task now falls to Beaux Barfield’s purview who promises to allow more protecting and harsher penalties for avoidable contact. Double-file restarts have been eliminated from events and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, and Auto Club Speedway for safety reasons. Texas returns to the 550k format instead of the Twin 275k run in 2011. New event in Qingdao, China and the return of the Belle Isle Grand Prix are exciting new opportunities for IndyCar. Hopefully, these changes will breed closer, and safer, competition in 2012.
On March 25, the IZOD IndyCar Series paddock can finally, mercifully, move on from the tragedy surrounding Dan Wheldon and get back to racing, ironically, in St. Petersburg, Florida…the city Dan Wheldon called home while driving a car that Wheldon that contributed to so much. Dan Wheldon’s legacy begins on the 1.8 Mile road course and its 14 turns as the new turbocharged, faster, and safer generation IndyCar, named the DW12 in Wheldon’s honor, hits the track for the first time in competition. The car incorporates new safety measures to prevent cars from locking wheels and becoming airborne at the speeds in which they run. The car came in being overweight producing greater aerodynamic drag than anticipated or expected especially on the high-speed ovals, and the weight bias is more toward the rear creating a difficult handling condition. All that being said, the car is anticipated to be at least one second faster than the 2011 model on the track with new aerodynamic components on the way to assist the car’s handling on ovals. No big deal because the first oval on the schedule is the Indianapolis 500 which doesn’t come until May so there is time to sort this car’s deficiencies out. Most importantly, the car is new for everybody which puts everybody on relatively equal footing as the individual teams will be charged with discovering and unlocking the cars speed and potential.
The car is not the only thing that is new for 2012 in terms of the equipment teams will be competing with. March 25, 2012 will mark the return of engine manufacturer competition in the IZOD IndyCar Series for the first time since 2005 when Honda, Toyota, and Chevrolet were competing for the prestigious manufacturer’s championship. Honda remains an engine supplier for 2012, but IndyCar welcomes the return of Chevrolet and the debut of Lotus to attempt taking the Honda brand down as top power plant in the series. All three engine manufacturers have heavy hitters that all can produce wins in 2012 and the competition should be as fierce as ever.
Manufacturer competition and a new car are only part of the plot that will make the 2012 IndyCar Season the most competitive and dramatic to date. The depth of the driver talent in this year’s field is incredible. Composed of drivers with multiple Indianapolis 500 rings, championships, race wins, and former Formula 1 and Champ Car veterans, this field is DEEP! The breakdown, with team and engine alliances, is below and is the expected entry list for St. Petersburg later this month with additional entries from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, MSR INDY, and Conquest Racing expected to be on the grid by the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.
# 2 Ryan Briscoe IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet
# 3 Helio Castroneves Shell V-Power Team Penske Chevrolet
# 4 J.R. Hildebrand National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet
# 5 E.J. Viso CITGO / PDVSA KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
# 6 Katherine Legge TrueCar Dragon Racing Lotus
# 7 Sebastien Bourdais Lotus Cars Dragon Racing Lotus
# 8 Rubens Barrichello BMC / Hyundai KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
# 9 Scott Dixon Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
# 10 Dario Franchitti Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
# 11 Tony Kanaan GEICO KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
# 12 Will Power Verizon Wireless Team Penske Chevrolet
# 14 Mike Conway ABC Supply Co. AJ Foyt Racing Honda
# 15 Takuma Sato Interush / Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda
# 18 James Jakes ACORN Stairlifts Dale Coyne Racing Honda
# 19 Justin Wilson Sonny’s Bar-B-Que Dale Coyne Racing Honda
# 20 Ed Carpenter Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
# 22 Oriol Servia Lotus Cars Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Lotus
# 26 Marco Andretti RC Cola Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
# 27 James Hinchcliffe GoDaddy.com Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
# 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay DHL / SunDrop Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
# 38 Graham Rahal NTB / Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
# 67 Josef Newgarden TBA Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda
# 77 Simon Pagenaud Bowers & Wilkins Sam Schmidt Honda
# 78 Simona de Silvestro Entergy HVM Racing Lotus
# 83 Charlie Kimball Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
# 98 Alex Tagliani Barracuda Networks Bryan Herta Autosport Lotus
This makes up a healthy 26 car field for St. Petersburg and, more importantly, everyone can WIN in this field. So pull the belts tight and fire the engines because this season is going to be epic!
19 year Formula 1 Veteran Rubens Barrichello answered the call of fellow countryman Tony Kanaan bringing him to Sebring, Florida to assist KV Racing Technology with developing the team’s new Chevrolet powered DW12 IndyCar. Currently, KV Racing still has one seat remaining to be filled in their anticipated three car stable for 2012. Barrichello has no obligations to the team beyond the three days of testing and it is unclear whether Barrichello and KV will continue their relationship when the IZOD IndyCar Series kicks off their 2012 season in St. Petersburg on March 25.
Barrichello began testing by having dinner with Kanaan at a local restaurant when the pair was joined by Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe, and Will Power of Team Penske as well as Dreyer & Reinbold’s Oriol Servia. Barrichello, surprised and amazed by this occurance, inquired of the other driver’s if this was normal. Coming from Formula 1 where everybody is a competitor and do not associate on or off track often at all, Barrichello’s surprise was undoubtedly genuine.
The IZOD IndyCar Series is a breeding ground for some of the most intense competition across all sporting avenues. All teams, drivers, and equipment are so evenly matched that the slightest edge is valuable, however, competition does not overshadow the understanding that INDYCAR is a family. All of the drivers and team members, for the most part, are friends and genuinely love being together and build strong off-track relationships that carry over inside the paddock. It is incredibly apparent in victory lane celebrations, monumental victories, and tragedy that all of these competitors care for each other at all times. When Dan Wheldon lost his life in Las Vegas in October, his death shocked the entire IndyCar family…a family that is still grieving together.
It is amazing that through all the fierce competition so many of these drivers genuinely love being together in a state of friendly competition. Do they have their on-track and off-track spats? Certainly, but they always seem to move forward, reconcile their differences, and return to the track to compete once again and we as the fans have the incredible pleasure of being honorary members of this family.
Bryan Herta, former teammate of Wheldon, told a story at his memorial at the Conseco Field House in Indianapolis about shortly before the Vegas race, Wheldon was signing autographs for fans outside his hauler while running short on time to make his way to his car on the starting grid. After signing the last autograph, he moved toward pit lane and turned around and said “Thank you for coming out, I really appreciate it”.
That is what IndyCar Racing is about. The family continues to grow, become stronger and will be the driving force of the sport’s bright future.
There is no better place to begin breaking down the 2011 IndyCar Season driver performances than with Dan Wheldon.
After a falling out with Panther Racing, Wheldon found himself on the outside looking in when it came to the 2011 IndyCar campaign…a situation that was, undoubtedly, difficult for Wheldon to endure. Having become one of the most beloved drivers in the IZOD IndyCar Series by its fans as well as his competitors, it was a difficult situation for everybody involved. Although when the green flag dropped on 2011 Wheldon was sitting on the sidelines watching everybody else race, redemption was a mere eight weeks away.
Wheldon and former teammate Bryan Herta managed to scrape together an under-funded operation in conjunction with Sam Schmidt Motorsports for the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Wheldon entered the mecca of auto racing and qualified the No. 98 William Rast Bryan Herta Autosport car on the outside of the second row on pole day and ran in the top 15 the entire day. The late stages of the race became a fuel mileage game and it looked to be rookie JR Hildebrand’s race to lose! On the last lap, the unthinkable happened, Hildebrand slammed the wall on the final corner as Dan Wheldon, the 2005 Winner but underdog in 2011, whizzed by to take the victory and drink the milk! This would be Wheldon’s final victory and in dramatic fashion.
After the dramatic Indianapolis 500 victory, Dan Wheldon was, once again, rideless for the duration of the 2011 season, or so it appeared. Wheldon decided that he would, successfully, become a bigger draw for the series’ fans as he joined Bob Jenkins and Jan Beekhuis in the Versus broadcast booth for the Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway as well as the Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway while broadcast regular Wally Dallenbach was fulfilling his TNT obligations to the NASCAR Spring Cup Series. Wheldon was an incredible talent when it came to being a color analyst and might have had a career when he decided to hang up his racing boots.
Wheldon completed the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season by competing at Kentucky Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway where he, eventually, lost his life! A full article on the Las Vegas Race can be found here:
Dan Wheldon’s biggest contribution to the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2011 was that he and Bryan Herta Autosport were tapped by the series to do the first round of testing for the 2012 Dallara IndyCar formula to be used in competition beginning in St. Petersburg in March 2012. Wheldon was charged with putting the car through its paces to iron out design imperfections and what changes needed to be made to make the car better. The new chassis will be dedicated in Dan Wheldon’s memory and will be known as the Dallara DW12 Safety Cell. Much gratitude goes to Dan for his assistance in the development of this car.
2011 Race Results
Indianapolis 500 – Qualified 6th, Finished 1st
Meijer Indy 300 @ Kentucky Speedway – Qualified 28th, Finished 14th
IZOD IndyCar World Championships @ Vegas – Qualified 34th, Race Incomplete at Lap 12
Dan Wheldon was an incredible race car driver, competitor, father, and husband. He will be greatly missed by the entire auto racing community. His engagement of the fans is something IndyCar will have a difficult time filling without him. He is remembered by everyone!
REST IN PEACE!
1978 – 2011
All the pomp and circumstance was there. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard and the race’s promoters organized and created incredible buzz surrounding this event with all 34 IndyCar entries parading down the Las Vegas strip on Thursday night, exciting practice sessions, charity blackjack tournaments, along with various other driver appearances. The race had all the makings of an incredible spectacle culminating the week’s activities saturated with storylines. Will Power and Dario Franchitti starting mid-pack of a record field duking it out for the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series Championship, Dan Wheldon starting dead last driving through the field for a $5 Million prize, and throw in the last race of the Dallara IndyCar platform in use since 2003, but it was not to be.
The photos pretty much tell the story. The IZOD IndyCar World Championships, supposed to be a celebration of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season, ended in tragedy. The race was to be a race for the ages with high speed, competitive side by side racing for three hundred miles. The green flag dropped to begin the three hundred mile showcase with drivers immediately running three and four wide in one huge pack. In fact, the No. 6 IZOD Team Penske maching piloted by Ryan Briscoe touched wheels with the No. 98 William Rast car of Alex Tagliani with less than ten laps complete. The pack of cars, while exciting, turned deadly on lap 12. What began with a slight touch of wheels between rookie James Hinchcliffe and essential rookie Wade Cunningham resulted in a fifteen car melee landing four drivers in the hospital and claimed the life of driver Dan Wheldon. Four of the fifteen cars, including Dan Wheldon, Championship contender Will Power, Pippa Mann and Indianpolis 500 runner-up JR Hildebrand, became airborne causing carnage and an immediate red flag situation. The Bower’s and Wilkens car of Dan Wheldon smashed into the catch fence and came to rest in the middle of the backstretch. Driver Dan Wheldon was airlifted to the hospital where he succumbed to unsurvivable injuries. IndyCar’s drivers, officials, and team owners decided to end the race, rendering it ‘incomplete’ and giving Dario Franchitti his third straight Championship…a Championship that may never be celebrated. The remaining cars and their drivers returned to their cars for a Five Lap Tribute while Wheldon’s car number, 77, remained illuminated atop the scoring pylon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway so bringing a somber, tragic end to IndyCar’s 2011 season.
The cause of this devastating crash cannot be explained with just one or two factors. These are just some of the factors contributing to the devistating crash: