As we remember Dan Wheldon, we pray for Jules Bianchi

Three years ago today, we lost Dan Wheldon.

As we remember Dan Wheldon, we pray for Jules Bianchi
2011 Indy 500 race winner Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb / Agajanian celebrates
Dan Wheldon - Indy500 2011
Winners photoshoot: tribute to Dan Wheldon
Tribute to Dan Wheldon
The horrific 15-car crash that took the life of Dan Wheldon
A tribute to Dan Wheldon
2011 Indy 500 race winner Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb / Agajanian with son Sebastian
Dan Wheldon tests the new 2012 IndyCar from Dallara
The Marussia F1 Team MR03 of Jules Bianchi, carries messages of support, with the hashtags #ForzaJules and #JB17
The Marussia F1 Team MR03 of Jules Bianchi, carries messages of support, with the hashtags #ForzaJules and #JB17 and will not be run this weekend
Adrian Sutil, Sauber F1 Team looks on as the safety team at work after the crash of Jules Bianchi, Marussia F1 Team
Max Chilton, Marussia F1 Team and members of the team show their support for Jules Bianchi on the grid

There are a few moments in our lives where we remember exactly where we were when a significant event happened. For racing fans, these kinds of moments usually correspond with the loss of one of our own.

Where were you when we lost Dan?

Three years ago today, I was in an RV on I-95, crossing through Virginia. I was watching the 2011 IndyCar season finale on TV. The race was just a few laps old, but I was already captivated by the intense, Talladega-esque action.

We were just settling in when they decided to check on Dan Wheldon, who was rocketing up through the pack after starting last. He was hoping to collect $5,000,000 for winning the event, making just his third start of the season. A few months prior, he won the Indianapolis 500 in one of the most exciting finishes in the race's history.

The moment

As the commentators discussed his progress, I noticed smoke up ahead seconds before they do as well. "Right now, the position he's in, he's actually got a small advantage because everyone else has opened the air up right in front of hi -- Oh! Here we go!" 

Chaos. Carnage. The unthinkable.

Cars were sent somersaulting into the air like a video game, landing on top of one another. Smoke, debris, fire everywhere. Half the grid was obliterated and as the remaining drivers went through the debris field, it looked like nothing short of a war zone. Soon after, I lost the TV signal, left to wonder the fate of the 15 racers involved.

Many were injured, a few walked away shaken but otherwise unscathed. As we now know, one driver was far from okay. I heard through a phone call first. Dan's gone. By the time I got the signal back, all I could see were grown men weeping, thousands of people who couldn't believe what was happening walking around aimlessly.

They did a five lap salute, and then they went home. In the years since Dan Wheldon's tragic death, as is always the case with motorsport, we've lost more racers.

There's the names that have been immortalized such as Allan Simonsen, Sean Edwards, Marco Simoncelli, and Jason Leffler. Sadly, there's dozens more whose names few will ever be able to recall

Now we pray for Jules

Today, we wait to see what fate has in store for rising Formula One star, Jules Bianchi. He lays unconscious in a Japanese hospital with a severe brain injury. Should we lose him, it will be the first driver fatality during an F1 race weekend in two decades, which will make it sting that much more.

There's still hope for Jules though, we haven't lost this one yet. The chances are slim, but a chance at all is more than many others have had following horrendous accidents. Today, we remember one fallen racer and pray that another escapes death.

An unwelcomed companion

Due to incredible safety improvements, death has become a stranger who rarely crosses racing's path instead of a frequent visitor whose presence is awaited with intense trepidation. We can never fully protect our drivers though, death will always be an unwelcomed companion of auto racing.

We can just bury the fallen with tears, embrace the ones who escape death’s firm and final grip with relief, and race on, because that’s what racers do.

Rest in peace Lion Heart, and Forza Jules.

shares
comments
Racer/kingpin Randy Lanier is a free man
Previous article

Racer/kingpin Randy Lanier is a free man

Next article

Inside the numbers: Power holds interesting record

Inside the numbers: Power holds interesting record
Load comments
Ranking the top 10 IndyCar drivers of 2021 Prime

Ranking the top 10 IndyCar drivers of 2021

In an enthralling 2021 IndyCar campaign, the series bounced back from its COVID-19 truncated year prior and series sophomore Alex Palou defeated both the established order and his fellow young guns to clinch a maiden title. It capped a remarkable season with plenty of standout performers

IndyCar
Nov 22, 2021
How Marcus Ericsson finally unlocked his potential in IndyCar Prime

How Marcus Ericsson finally unlocked his potential in IndyCar

Marcus Ericsson enjoyed a breakout year in the IndyCar Series in 2021, winning twice and finishing sixth in points with Chip Ganassi Racing. How did he finally unlock the potential that was masked by five years of toil in Formula 1 with Caterham and Sauber/Alfa Romeo?

IndyCar
Nov 16, 2021
Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing win Prime

Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing win

Saturday, Oct. 16th, marks the 10th anniversary Dan Wheldon’s death. David Malsher-Lopez pays tribute, then asks Wheldon’s race engineer from 2011, Todd Malloy, to recall that magical second victory at the Indianapolis 500.

IndyCar
Oct 16, 2021
Have Harvey and RLL formed IndyCar’s next winning match-up? Prime

Have Harvey and RLL formed IndyCar’s next winning match-up?

Jack Harvey’s move to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing sparked plenty of debate, but their combined strength could prove golden, says David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Oct 15, 2021
Why Kyle Kirkwood is America's new IndyCar ace-in-waiting Prime

Why Kyle Kirkwood is America's new IndyCar ace-in-waiting

Kyle Kirkwood, the record-setting junior formula driver, sealed the Indy Lights championship last weekend. But despite an absurdly strong résumé and scholarship money, his next move is far from clear. By David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Oct 6, 2021
2021 IndyCar title is just the start for Ganassi's newest star Prime

2021 IndyCar title is just the start for Ganassi's newest star

Alex Palou has captured Chip Ganassi Racing's 14th IndyCar drivers' championship, and in truly stellar manner. David Malsher-Lopez explains what made the Palou-Ganassi combo so potent so soon.

IndyCar
Sep 28, 2021
Why Grosjean's oval commitment shows he's serious about IndyCar Prime

Why Grosjean's oval commitment shows he's serious about IndyCar

One of motorsport’s worst-kept secrets now out in the open, and Romain Grosjean has been confirmed as an Andretti Autosport IndyCar driver in 2022. It marks a remarkable turnaround after the abrupt end to his Formula 1 career, and is a firm indication of his commitment to challenge for the IndyCar Series title  

IndyCar
Sep 24, 2021
IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch Prime

IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch

The 2021 IndyCar silly season is one of the silliest of all, but it’s satisfying to see so many talented drivers in play – including Callum Ilott. David Malsher-Lopez reports.

IndyCar
Sep 11, 2021