Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon was killed Sunday afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in a fiery 15-car wreck that once again highlights the dangers of auto racing. Wheldon is the first driver to die on the track since 2006, ESPN.com reports.
The crash occurred just 11 laps into the 300-lap race and was caused when two cars touched tires. Wheldon was unable to avoid the crash and his car went airborne before slamming into the catch fence and bursting into flames. He was airlifted to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead at 1:19 p.m. Officials canceled the race but the remaining drivers returned to the track to do a five lap salute to their fallen colleague.
"One minute you're joking around at driver intros. The next, Dan's gone," driver Dario Franchitti told the news source. "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."
Wheldon's death is indicative of the growing concerns about the safety of auto racing. According to The Associated Press, many drivers had expressed concerns about how crowded the race was, with 34 cars crammed into the narrow track. Driver Tony Kanaan thinks that he and other IndyCar racers should meet to discuss how to improve safety on the track much like how NASCAR revamped its rules after Dale Earnhardt was killed in 2001.
"We have to take care of each other. We are playing with lives here," Kanaan told the AP. "We need to give each other room."