Indianapolis 500 Winner Dan Wheldon Dies in Crash During IndyCar Finale

It was supposed to be a great day for the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Instead, it was one of the worst, darkest days in the recent history of U.S. open-wheel racing.

Mere laps into the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, an horrific accident collected 15 of the 34 cars, including that being driven by Dan Wheldon, the winner of this year’s Indianapolis 500. Wheldon’s car was launched over the back of another machine and went airborne, was collected in the catch fence along the back stretch of the 1.5-mile oval, and rendered Wheldon unresponsive. He was airlifted to a nearby health center where he was pronounced dead from “unsurvivable injuries.”

It’s a heartbreaking and crushing loss. INDYCAR, a professional sporting organization that seemingly has experienced more than its fair share of misfortune, was robbed of one of its best drivers, ambassadors and, most importantly, one of its best people.

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J.R. Hildebrand, Dan Wheldon and Crazy Indy 500 Ending (Video)

Are you familiar with the German word “schadenfreude?” It’s notoriously untranslatable because no other language has word for enjoying the suffering of others.

Then again, us Americans have reality show television. But we certainly saw this concept in action Sunday at the Indianapolis 500.

J.R. Hildebrand took the lead in the Indy 500 into the last turn when the rookie driver made a huge mistake. (You’ll hear the announcer say “he’s this close to winning the Indy 500”) In an attempt to pass, Hildebrand went and smashed into the wall.

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100th-Anniversary Indianapolis 500 Could be a Transformational Race

Call me delusional. Call me naive or caught up in the fanfare. Call me whatever. All I can do is go with a gut feeling.

And that gut feeling is that this Indianapolis 500, which falls on the 100th anniversary of Ray Harroun’s inaugural victory in 1911, is going to be different.

The centennial running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” which takes the green flag at noon today at the venerable Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has incredible potential compared to its predecessors of the last few years — maybe even the last few decades. Amidst honoring and celebrating the history of the Indy 500 and the opening of a gateway to a new era in U.S. open-wheel racing lies an opportunity to instill the excitement, the buzz that has been missing from this race for far too long.

By Drew Allen

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