Dan Wheldon, the British driver who won his second Indianapolis 500 in May, died of injuries suffered in a fiery 15-car crash today in the Las Vegas Indy 300.
Drivers were stunned when told of the death of Weldon, 33, about two hours after what many said was one of the worst crashes they’d ever seen. Fifteen cars were involved and three other drivers — J.R. Hildebrand, Pippa Mann and Will Power — were taken to a hospital with minor injuries.
“It was like a movie scene which they try to make as gnarly as possible,” said Danica Patrick (via Associated Press. “It was debris everywhere across the whole track, you could smell the smoke, you could see the billowing smoke on the back straight from the car. There was a chunk of fire that we were driving around. You could see cars scattered.”
(Videos after the jump)
Wheldon had blogged for USA Today about frustrations he was having with his car and there was been talk about the high speeds, topping 220, at practice. The violence of the crash stunned drivers.
“I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ryan Briscoe said of the crash, which occurred just minutes after the race began. “The debris we all had to drive through the lap later, it looked like a war scene from ‘Terminator’ or something. I mean, there were just pieces of metal and car on fire in the middle of the track with no car attached to it and just debris everywhere. So it was scary, and your first thoughts are hoping that no one is hurt because there’s just stuff everywhere. Crazy.”
Wheldon, who also won the 2005 Indy 500, was a native of Emberton, England, and lived in St. Petersburg, Fla. His wife and two young sons were with him at the hospital, according to ABC. He was 34th and last in the field, driving in the event as part of an IndyCar promotion that would have paid $5 million, to be split with a fan, to a non-series racer who started last and won.Wheldon was driving in the race for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
The remainder of the race was canceled, with racers tearfully driving tribute laps as “Danny Boy” and “Amazing Grace” were played over loudspeakers.
Gallery: IndyCar Crash in Las Vegas