NASCAR's Jeff Gordon on Dan Wheldon crash: 'Big changes coming'
There are likely "big changes coming" to the IndyCar series after the death of Dan Wheldon in a massive 15-car crash in Las Vegas, NASCAR stock-car driver Jeff Gordon said.
Wheldon, a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, suffered fatal injuries when his car struck another, then went airborne and crashed into the outside catch fence and wall in a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Critics have questioned whether the race posed inordinate risks because 34 cars were traveling close together at 220 mph or faster on the relatively small 1.5-mile Las Vegas track, which also has banked corners.
"Under the current conditions, I wouldn't say that the cars are safe enough to race on those types of high-banked, 1.5-mile race tracks," Gordon, a four-time champion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.
"I think between the owners, the drivers in that series, you'll see some big changes coming," Gordon said. "What those changes will be, I'm not sure. Obviously, under current conditions you can't climb a wheel [of another car] at 200-plus mph and get airborne and not expect there to be serious consequences."
Gordon's teammate Jimmie Johnson, the reigning Sprint Cup champion, said Monday that IndyCar should not race on ovall tracks for safety reasons, a viewpoint later rebuked by legendary Indy 500 winners A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti.
The Izod IndyCar Series said Tuesday that it launched an investigation into the factors surrounding Sunday's accident.
Gordon's comments came ahead of Sunday's NASCAR race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, another high-banked track but one that's more than one mile longer than Las Vegas at 2.66 miles.
The stock cars also weigh about 3,400 pounds compared with 1,560 pounds for the aerodynamic IndyCar vehicles.
But there have been a few times when stock cars -- which unlike Indy-style cars have fenders and roofs -- still have gotten airborne at Talladega, which prompted NASCAR to cap the cars' speeds at less than 200 mph on tracks such as Talladega.
"That's the key, keeping the cars on the ground," Gordon said. "An open-wheel car at that speed, it's difficult to do. I think between that and the catch fences for those types of cars, it's something that is seriously going to need to be looked at."
-- Jim Peltz
Photo: A makeshift memorial for Dan Wheldon outside Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the driver suffered fatal injuries in a crash Sunday. Credit: Robert Laberge / Getty Images