Ok folks, I’m going to do this one time as its own thread. I did not mean to hijack threads in the past, I just think that the Las Vegas incident was a very sad and poorly handled situation that has profoundly impacted the IICS, and I want to answer some of the questions that I have raised related to Las Vegas.
1 – Life lesson learned.
Automobile racing is a very dangerous sport, at ALL levels. Big Boy (and Girl) racing even more so. Every time the participants strap on a race car they are literally putting their lives in the hands of others and their own. No race driver, or team participant wants to die or be injured, but the probability is that eventually a participant will be hurt or killed, end of story. As a participant of the sport you live with this reality and accept it or you are foolish. You accept the risk and go forward to the extent you think acceptable.
When a participant believes there is excessive risk, it is their own PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY to not participate. Participants make choices about the risk, and quietly discuss their choices with others. If participants choose to do so, they may state their PERSONAL OPINION, but also need to realize that in almost every situation, the other competitors, organizers and fans have a say in the situation.
2 – How Las Vegas was poorly handled.
This is my personal opinion, but it is based on history, other people and participants views, and personal experience from participating in automobile racing.
First, the race should not have been cancelled as it was. The participants should have been told that the race would continue the next day when the track repairs could have been affected and inspected. The track was deemed safe for spectators and participants before the race and if returned to the same condition the race should have continued. Participants would have the opportunity to withdraw from competition with no penalty other than not advancing their position and being scored from the lap of their withdrawal. The team owners should have been asked right then and there if they would withdraw not told the race would be cancelled. If at that point an overwhelming number of participants withdrew from competition, it could have been announced that the PARTICIPANTS CHOSE NOT TO CONTINUE RACING.
Second, the awards banquet should NOT have been cancelled. I realize that the mood would have been somber, and the participants would not have felt like partying, but the IICS is in the entertainment business, and an appropriate change to the banquet could have been effected. Tributes to Dan, public announcements about plans, etc would have been appropriate. It could have been an appropriate ending, but as it is it was just abandonment.
Third, the investigation should have been handled differently. There is no reason why the result could not have been kept as a privately held report and only allowed to be read by selected groups (owners, promoters, sanctioning body, insurers etc) and an official “summary” provided to the press. There may have been some murmurs of a cover-up etc, but the result would have been the same legally. There has been a plethora of interpretations by armchair experts and excessive what if scenarios played out in the public by people who are ignorant or who just choose to edit the “Facts” of the report to their choosing. I am not going to argue about the points of the investigation. The bottom line of the investigation is the track was and is safe, the car was and is safe, and it was an extraordinary combination of circumstances that contributed to the accident and blunt force trauma through contact with a pole that caused Dan Wheldon’s tragic death.
While I have not personally been involved with a death during a race where I was a participant, I have personally been involved with a serious injury to a participant from my race car. I have been through some of this on a personal level and based on my experience and my historical knowledge of the sport I have developed my opinion of the Las Vegas accident.
I made personal choices after the accident I was involved in to not compete for one night and to personally sort out the problem with my vehicle that caused the accident that took away one mans vocation because of an injury. I discovered the cause of the failure, and corrected the situation, and participated again in racing at the same track with the same rules that allowed this condition to exist. To this day, many local tracks allow the particular assembly to be used that I personally do not think should be allowed. This assembly still malfunctions and still causes accidents. Many people think this assembly is perfectly acceptable so I simply voice my opinion quietly and let people decide whether to use it or not. I do know that I am EXETREMELY careful in the pit areas where I know this assembly is allowed in racing vehicles.
Finally as to the comments about from at least one individual related to having the Dan Wheldon Classic being a celebration of his death, I whole heartedly disagree. This is a tribute to Dan Wheldon and his efforts in motorsports, Mankind has several examples of Memorials to celebrate the lives of people at a location where a tragedy has occurred. Memorials also serve as a historical reminder of the event to pass down to the next generation. We have the Pearl Harbor Memorial to honor those who died in service to our country and to remind our generations to come of the horrors of war and the consequence of not being prepared. Same for the new 9-11 memorial, or the WWII and Vietnam memorials etc. There used to be a day when there were many races to honor racings fallen heroes. The Rex Mays Classic and The Bettenhausen Memorial, are two big races that come to mind. I would never have known about how heroic Rex Mays was if not for a race named in his honor. Perhaps Greg Moore or Jeff Krosnoff never became better known because there is no memorial race for them. I think it is an Honor that is well deserved by Dan at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
OK, fire away.