INDIANAPOLIS — British racing driver Dan Wheldon, a two-time winner of the fabled Indianapolis 500, was killed when a fence pole speared through his car, causing massive head injuries, an investigation report concluded on Friday. Wheldon, 33, died on Oct. 16 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in an horrific 15-car crash that catapulted his car into the air and into a fence at the IndyCar season finale. The Englishman perished in the fiery pile-up, in which several cars were sent flying while others careered down the track in flames to litter the track with smoking debris. “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,” said IndyCar president of operations Brian Barnhart.
“As the pole intruded the cockpit, the impact with the driver’s helmeted head produced non-survivable blunt force trauma.” Wheldon, who started from the rear of the 34-car field, was running 24th on lap 11 when the accident occurred. “When you have a tragedy like this, it’s disappointing that the only good thing that comes out of it is improvement in the future,” added Barnhart.
“The best thing we can do is take this situation, learn from it and move forward. Safety is an evolutionary process.” The accident report said that Wheldon’s path on the lower portion of the racetrack was blocked by a multi-car pile-up that he was approaching and he immediately reduced speed from 224mph to 165mph before colliding with Charlie Kimball. Wheldon’s car than became airborne before hitting the fencing. In the aftermath of the tragedy, it was decided not to sanction a 2012 race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “Las Vegas is a great city, a resort destination. Our fans, our sponsors and everyone like Las Vegas and it’s a great place for the race,” Bernard said. “But I don’t want to go back there if the conditions aren’t right and it’s not safe for our race cars.”