Dan Wheldon was killed at the Las Vegas Indy 300 in a horrific 15-car smashup during the race on Sunday. His vehicle went airborne and slammed into a wall. It then burst into a ball of flames.
The Las Vegas Indy 300, the final race of the IndyCar season, was canceled, and Wheldon, 33, was airlifted to the University Medical Center. His wife, Susie, and sons, Sebastian, 2, and Oliver, 7 months, were at his bedside when he died, along with his sister and three brothers, the Daily Mail reported.
“It was like a movie scene which they try to make as gnarly as possible,” racer Danica Patrick said of the grisly wreckage. “It was debris everywhere across the whole track. You could smell the smoke. You could see the billowing smoke,” she said.
Driver Dario Franchitti had to be consoled by his wife, actress Ashley Judd, after he began sobbing. He later said some of the racers were being reckless.
“I could see within five laps people were starting to do crazy stuff,” Franchitti said. “I love hard racing, but that to me is not really what it’s about. One small mistake from somebody.”
The fiery smashup began on the race’s 12th lap when Wade Cunningham swerved on the track and then J.R. Hildebrand, who was tailing him, drove over the rear of Cunningham’s car. Hildebrand went airborne, and Cunningham hit wall. Will Power’s car then flew over Alex Lloyd’s vehicle, and then Power went into the wall. The chain reaction happened so quickly that Wheldon, who started last and was still near the rear, couldn’t steer through the chaos and smashed into Paul Tracy’s car.
After learning of Wheldon’s death, the other drivers rode around the track for a five-lap tribute. Three other drivers were hurt but did not suffer life-threatening injuries.
It was the first fatality in the IndyCar Series since 2006, when Paul Dana died.