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IndyCar launches probe of Dan Wheldon crash, plans memorial Sunday

October 18, 2011 |  7:31 pm

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