Dan Wheldon’s non-survivable injury Oct. 16 during a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway involved circumstances of location, direction and orientation that were the chance result of previous car contact, an investigation report released Dec. 15 concluded.
“There are multiple factors that are not uncommon to racing that came together in a way that claimed Dan’s life,” said INDYCAR President of Operations Brian Barnhart, who was involved in the investigation. “It is a tragedy. Our thoughts and support will always be with Dan’s family.”
Wheldon, who started from the rear of the 34-car field, was running 24th on Lap 11 when the accident that involved 15 cars occurred between Turns 1-2.
The combined data from various technical resources provided INDYCAR officials insight into what transpired during the multi-car incident, including what happened to the No. 77 car during the accident.
“INDYCAR’s commitment to safety was enhanced by Dan Wheldon’s testing throughout 2011 of the new car to be used by INDYCAR in 2012,” INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard said during a news conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that was streamed live on indycar.com.
“The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season ushers in an era of a new race car and the opportunity for continued safety advancements. Dan Wheldon was instrumental in the testing and development of this new car and the safety innovations that it represents. We are thankful for his efforts and commitment to racing.
“These observations will be part of a continuous process to improve racing so it’s both competitive and as safe as possible.”
The accident review revealed that Wheldon’s path on the lower portion of the racetrack was blocked by the multi-car crash he was approaching. About 2.4 seconds prior to contact with the left-rear tire of the No. 83 car, Wheldon reduced throttle to 55 percent and applied the brakes to decelerate from 224 mph on the front straightaway to 165 mph in Turn 1. A second later, the throttle was reduced to less than 10 percent.
After striking the No. 83 car’s tire, the No. 77 car became airborne and began to roll to the right. The right rear of the car made contact with the racing surface and the chassis traveled rearward first toward the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier. The chassis then rotated so it was traveling in race direction parallel to the fencing along the top of the permanent wall behind the SAFER Barrier, with the cockpit open toward the fencing.
The chassis impacted a vertical post along the right side of the tub that – as the car passed by — created significant damage extending from the pedal bulkhead, through the cockpit and shearing off the roll hoop. As the pole intruded the cockpit, the impact with the driver’s helmeted head produced non-survivable blunt force trauma.