Dan Wheldon’s No. 77 car (left) and Pippa Mann’s car are airborne during crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Robert Laberge / Getty Images)

Wheldon after winning his second Indianapolis 500 in May. (Nick Laham / Getty Images)

“I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ryan Briscoe said of the crash that stunned even veteran drivers and racing fans. “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, his wife, Susie, and sons after his second Indy 500 win in May. (Nick Laham / Getty Images)

“One minute you’re joking around at driver intros and the next, Dan’s gone,” said Dario Franchitti, a long-time friend of Wheldon’s. “I lost, we lost, a good friend. Everybody in the IndyCar series considered him a friend. He was such a good guy. He was a charmer.”

In his blog, Wheldon had said Saturday that his crew was seeking to find speed that had been missing for a while. “It is incredibly frustrating, both for me and them,” he said. “All the boys are working as hard as possible, but so far we haven't pinpointed what it is. Part of the reason it's so frustrating is because we'd created so much momentum around Indy.”

Speeds during practice for the 200-lap race were close to 225 mph and there were concerns about overly aggressive moves. “We all had a bad feeling about this place in particular just because of the high banking and how easy it was to go flat,” Oriol Servia said. “And if you give us the opportunity, we are drivers and we try to go to the front. We race each other hard because that’s what we do. We knew it could happen, but it’s just really sad.”

Chip Ganassi, Wheldon’s former boss, wasn’t ready to think about that Sunday. “There’ll be plenty of time in the offseason to talk about that. Now is not the time to talk about that.” Franchitti agreed, although, he expressed concerns.

Dario Franchitti hugs members of his crew Sunday. (Isaac Brekken / AP)

“I said before this is not a suitable track. You can't get away from anybody. One small mistake and you have a massive wreck.”

Will Power, J.R. Hildebrand and Pippa Mann were also taken to the hospital; Power was released Sunday night. Hildebrand was alert, but was held overnight for observation. Mann had a burn on her pinkie finger and was expected to be released this morning.

Rescue workers reached Wheldon’s car quickly and he was airlifted to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His wife, Susie, his sons and brother and sister were at the hospital.

“What can you say? We’re going to miss him,” Ganassi said. “Everybody in IndyCar died a little today.”

My heart hurts deeply for Dan Wheldon and his family.An amazing individual who inspired me the moment we met.RIP Dan. Your legacy lives on..Sun Oct 16 22:34:19 via Twitter for BlackBerry®Hope Solo

Sad news about dan wheldon. RIP. News like this puts everything into perspective. #waytoyoungSun Oct 16 22:19:45 via Twitter for iPhoneWayne Rooney

The loss of Dan Wheldon affects the whole racing community. May all our thoughts and prayers b w his family. He will b missed!Sun Oct 16 22:20:20 via EchofonKyle Busch


Video: Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan on Wheldon’s death

Video: Drivers’ 5-lap tribute

Obit: The life of Dan Wheldon

Indy 500: Wheldon’s second win has wild finish