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Category: Dan Wheldon

Chip Ganassi backs IndyCar chief Randy Bernard

Randy Bernard's stewardship of the Izod IndyCar Series has been controversial at times, but one of the series' leading team owners, Chip Ganassi, said Tuesday he supports Bernard.

BernardBernard is wrapping up his second year as the series' chief executive, a season marred by the death of Dan Wheldon in a 15-car crash at the last race Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Bernard, hired to reverse a drop in IndyCar's popularity following a bitter, 12-year split among series participants, heavily promoted the Las Vegas race, one of several steps he's taken in a bid to grow IndyCar's following. IndyCar also plans to introduce a new race car starting in 2012.

"Just about every time he comes up for air, [Bernard] gets pushed back under the water again," Ganassi told reporters on a teleconference. "The good news is I think Randy's shown great ability to breathe under water.

"There's a lot of facets in this sport that someone coming in from the outside has to learn," said Ganassi, whose driver Dario Franchitti won his third consecutive championship this year and fourth overall.

"No one has been a more willing learner than Randy Bernard," Ganassi continued. "Look at the things that have gone on since he came into the sport  . . . a new car, a new engine formula, a new rules package, [a] new way of buying and distributing the cars. So he's doing fine, I think."

--Jim Peltz

Photo: Randy Bernard, chief executive of the Izod IndyCar Series, during a memorial service for the late driver Dan Wheldon on Oct. 23 in Indianapolis. Credit: Michael Conroy/Associated Press

IndyCar releases findings of crash that killed Dan Wheldon


The ability of IndyCar drivers to have "almost unlimited movement" at high speeds around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway was among the factors in the 15-car crash that killed driver Dan Wheldon during a race Oct. 16, the Izod IndyCar Series said Thursday.

Releasing the results of its investigation into the accident, the series indicated that the 1.5-mile speedway's high banking and the race's relatively high 34-car field were not by themselves at fault.

But the series said that although most tracks have one or two "grooves" on the racing surface that curb how much drivers can maneuver their cars, the Las Vegas oval -- combined with the design and performance of the IndyCar race cars -- gave drivers "almost unlimited movement" leading up to the fatal wreck.

"The combination of the track geometry factors allowed for relative unrestricted movement within the racing pack that had not previously been experienced," Brian Barnhart, IndyCar's president of operations, told a news conference in Indianapolis.

"This movement not only allowed for increased car-to-car contact but made it more difficult for drivers to predict the movement of other drivers around them," he said. "As a result, the opportunity for this accident was increased.

"While the accident could have occurred at any track at any time, the dynamics of the current car and the overall track geometry at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway under race conditions appear to have been causal to this accident," he said.

Wheldon, 33, had won the Indianapolis 500 for the second time this year. He was running 24th in the race at 224 mph when the chain-reaction crash started in front of him, IndyCar said.

Wheldon's car was among four that went airborne as the fiery crash unfolded, with Wheldon's car striking a catch-fence pole that caused the driver fatal head injuries, IndyCar said.

IndyCar is rolling out a new race car for 2012 that it expects will be safer, but the series recently said it would not return to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway next year as planned, citing a need for further testing there with the new car.

"I don't want to go back there if the conditions aren't right and it's not safe for our race cars," IndyCar Chief Executive Randy Bernard said Thursday.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Cars go airborne in the 15-car crash that killed driver Dan Wheldon on Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Credit: Barry Ambrose / Reuters

IndyCar Series will not return to Las Vegas next year


The Izod IndyCar Series said Thursday it would not return next year to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where driver Dan Wheldon was killed Oct. 16 in a horrific 15-car crash.

The series is rolling out a newly designed car next season and "we need to give our technical team ample time to conduct thorough testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway" after a probe into the crash is completed, IndyCar Chief Executive Randy Bernard said in a statement.

IndyCar has yet to release its 2012 schedule but previously had said it planned to again hold its season-ending race at the track north of the Las Vegas Strip.

But some critics questioned whether IndyCar should be racing at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas oval where cars reached speeds of more than 220 mph on highly banked corners.

The speedway's president, Chris Powell, likewise said in a statement that it was “in everyone’s best interest to give the experts at IndyCar as much time as possible to compile their findings and conduct tests with the new car here at the speedway before we host another IndyCar event."

"We are very hopeful that the Indy Cars will return to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2013," Powell said.

IndyCar will open next year's season with a street race March 25 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the complete 2012 schedule "will be announced in the coming weeks," IndyCar said.


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--Jim Peltz

Photo: A makeshift memorial Oct. 17 outside Las Vegas Motor Speedway for IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, who was killed the previous day in a racing crash there. Credit: Robert Laberge / Getty Images

MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli killed in Malaysian crash

Tragedy struck the racing world again Sunday when 24-year-old rider Marco Simoncelli died after crashing and then violently colliding with two other riders in the MotoGP motorcycle race in Malaysia.

MarcoThe Italian rider struck American Colin Edwards and Italian Valentino Rossi on the second lap of the race at the Sepang circuit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which was immediately stopped and later canceled. It was the next-to-last race of the season.

MotoGP medical director Michele Macchiagodena told reporters that Simoncelli was taken to the track medical center with head, neck and chest injuries and died about 45 minutes later.

"I'm so shocked and saddened by the loss of Marco," said Casey Stoner, who recently clinched the series title. "When things like this happen it reminds you how precious life is."

Edwards suffered a dislocated shoulder in the crash but otherwise he and Rossi were not seriously injured, race officials said.

MotoGP is an international series featuring high-speed motorcycle racing. The series has two U.S. stops each year, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.

A week ago Indycar driver Dan Wheldon, a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, was killed in a 15-car crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Wheldon's funeral was Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla.


Photos: Marco Simoncelli crash

— Jim Peltz

Photo: Italian rider Marco Simoncelli in August before the MotoGP race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Credit: Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images

Funeral services for Dan Wheldon set for Saturday in Florida

FabforumFuneral services for Dan Wheldon, the IndyCar driver who was killed Sunday during a crash in Las Vegas, will take place Saturday at 10 a.m. Eastern time in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Wheldon's wife, Susie, issued a statement saying that “although the last few days have been unbearable for our family, the overwhelming love and support we have received are rays of sunshine during these dark days. The outpouring of sympathy and condolences has been so comforting, and I want to thank everyone for their kind notes, letters, gifts and flowers.”

"Dan touched the lives of many people, and I would like to invite those citizens in our community who knew and loved my husband to attend his funeral service. Though we won't be able to fit everyone inside, I know that Dan would have wanted the community to share in the celebration of his life and to grieve his passing. Thank you again. I am forever grateful for your kindness."

IndyCar said the public can send donations to the Dan Wheldon Family Trust, set up for Wheldon's survivors, to: Fifth Third Private Bank, Attn: Dan Wheldon Family Trust, 251 N. Illinois St., Suite 1000, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

Those wishing to send their condolences to the Wheldon family can address letters to: The Wheldons, 600 Koger Blvd. N, Suite 105, St. Petersburg, FL 33702.


NASCAR's plans to honor Dan Wheldon

Dan Wheldon's death raises questions about IndyCar racing

— Jim Peltz

Photo: A bottle of milk sits among flowers and mementos at a memorial for Dan Wheldon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway gate. Credit: Matt Kryger / Associated Press

NASCAR plans car and helmet decals in memory of Dan Wheldon

NASCAR plans to provide its teams with decals honoring the memory of Dan Wheldon at this weekend's NASCAR races at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

Dan-WheldonWheldon, a 33-year-old Englishman who this year won the Indianapolis 500 for the second time, was killed Sunday in a 15-car crash at the Izod IndyCar Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR said its car and truck teams would place decals on the so-called B post of their vehicles next to the side windows. NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series is racing Saturday and its Sprint Cup Series on Sunday.

The decal design includes a Lionheart Knight image that was a fixture on the back of Wheldon's racing helmets, NASCAR said, adding that it also was providing a version of the decal to NASCAR drivers to place on their helmets this weekend if they desired.

A moment of silence in Wheldon's memory also will be held prior to the invocations before both races this weekend, NASCAR said.

IndyCar plans a public memorial for Wheldon on Sunday in downtown Indianapolis.


Dan Wheldon's death raises questions about IndyCar racing

Dan Wheldon's death hits racing community especially hard

Bill Dwyre: Dan Wheldon was an engaging young champion

— Jim Peltz

Photo: The decal honoring Dan Wheldon that NASCAR plans to provide for teams to place on their cars this weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Credit: NASCAR

Dan Wheldon crash: IndyCar revises team members in probe

Dan1The Izod IndyCar Series on Wednesday revised its information about the team investigating the death of driver Dan Wheldon from injuries in a 15-car crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The series initially said Tuesday that the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the governing body for Formula One racing, and the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States, an umbrella organization of racing sanctioning bodies, would assist in its probe of Sunday's accident.

But "it was incorrect to state that either ACCUS or FIA are formally involved," IndyCar said without explanation in a revised statement. It added, however, that "individual members of various motorsports bodies" would help in the investigation.

IndyCar reiterated that it hoped to report preliminary findings about the crash "within the next several weeks."

A public memorial for Wheldon, who was 33 and a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, is scheduled Sunday in Indianapolis.


Dan Wheldon's death raises questions about IndyCar racing

Dan Wheldon's death hits racing community especially hard

Dan Wheldon was an engaging young champion

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Dan Wheldon after winning the Indianapolis 500 last May 29. Credit: Paul Sancya/Associated Press

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.

WheldonwedCritics 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."


Dan Wheldon's death raises questions about IndyCar racing

Bill Dwyre: Dan Wheldon was an engaging young champion

-- 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

IndyCar launches probe of Dan Wheldon crash, plans memorial Sunday

The Izod IndyCar Series said Tuesday it launched an investigation into the horrific 15-car wreck that claimed the life of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon in Las Vegas.

Wheldon"We hope to have preliminary findings to report within the next several weeks," IndyCar said. "In the meantime, it would be inappropriate to comment further until the investigative team has had the opportunity to conclude its work."

Wheldon, 33, succumbed to injuries Sunday when his car was involved in the crash early in a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

IndyCar also said it would hold a public memorial service to celebrate Wheldon's life Sunday at Conseco Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis.

IndyCar said the governing body for Formula One racing, along with the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States, an umbrella organization of racing sanctioning bodies, would assist in the probe.

"The safety of our drivers, their crews, IndyCar staff, racetrack staff and spectators is always our paramount concern," the series said.

Wheldon's death sparked debate about whether it was too dangerous for 34 cars to be traveling at 220 mph and faster at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas oval. NASCAR stock-car racing champion Jimmie Johnson suggested IndyCar avoid oval tracks.

But two legendary open-wheel drivers, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti, defended oval racing.

"I don't think Jimmie Johnson knows what he's talking about," Foyt, a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, told USA Today. "You could say the same about stock cars. I've drove both, and I've been hurt real bad in both."

Andretti told the newspaper that Wheldon's crash was "a fluke, freakish accident" and that while there is always room for safety improvements, to say "we don't have the knowledge to make these things safe enough for ovals is absolutely absurd."


Dan Wheldon's death raises questions about IndyCar racing

Dan Wheldon's death hits racing community especially hard

Dan Wheldon was an engaging young champion

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Workers hang a tribute banner to Dan Wheldon above the gate at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Dan Wheldon got wife's initials tattooed on his wrist night before he died


The Las Vegas Review-Journal says Dan Wheldon and his wife, Susie, got his and hers tattoos at a Las Vegas tattoo shop inside the Palms the night before Wheldon was killed during an IndyCar race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The couple got each other's initials tattooed on their wrists.

Darren Rovell, a reporter for CNBC, posted a photo on his Twitter page of Dan Wheldon showing off his tattoo just after he got it.

Wheldon died Sunday when his car ran into another car at an angle on the track's banked curve in Turn 2 and was sent his car airborne, rolling cockpit-first into the catch fence. Clark County Coroner Michael Murphy said Wheldon died of blunt head trauma.

Sitting at home, five-time defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson watched the accident in horror. On Monday, he urged IndyCar to stop racing on ovals.

"I wouldn't run them on ovals. There's just no need to. Those cars are fantastic for street circuits, for road courses," Johnson said.

"I hate, hate, hate that this tragedy took place. But hopefully they can learn from it and make those cars safer on ovals somehow," he said.

"I have a lot of friends that race in that series, and I'd just rather see them on street circuits and road courses. No more ovals."


Photos: Fiery auto crash in Las Vegas

Video: Dan Wheldon killed in IndyCar crash

Bill Dwyre: Dan Wheldon was an engaging young champion

Graphic: Comparing tracks at Las Vegas and Indianapolis speedways

--Houston Mitchell

Photo: The image put on Darren Rovell's Twitter page of Dan Wheldon showing off his new tattoo.

Dan Wheldon crash: Two injured drivers treated and released


This post has been updated. See below for details.

Two other IndyCar drivers involved in the 15-car wreck that killed British driver Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday were treated for minor injuries, their teams said.

Will Power of Penske Racing, who finished second in the title standings behind champion Dario Franchitti, complained of pain in his upper back after his car went airborne in the crash.

But "there was no evidence of significant injuries so he has been released" from University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Penske Racing said.

Another driver, Pippa Mann of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team, had surgery Sunday night at the same hospital to treat a severely burned pinkie finger on her right hand. She was being released Monday morning, her team said.

[Updated, 12:20 p.m. Oct. 17: A third driver, J.R. Hildebrand, suffered a “severely bruised sternum” in the accident and was held overnight at University Medical Center but was released Monday, his team, Panther Racing, said.]

The Izod IndyCar Series, meanwhile, announced that it canceled its championship banquet scheduled for Monday night at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas.

The series also said information on a public memorial for Wheldon will be released at a later date.


Graphic: Comparing tracks at Las Vegas and Indianapolis Motor Speedways

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Drew Boyd places a checkered flag at a gate of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of a memorial for two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon. Credit: Scott Olson / Getty Images


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