VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. — There’s plenty of dialog concerning the tragic death of Dan Wheldon in Las Vegas on Sunday.
Already there are some who say racing should be stopped because of the danger. Let’s look at the inroads which have been made.
The 1955 Indianapolis 500 had 17 of its 33 starters eventually die in race cars. That’s half, a deplorable figure. The fastest qualifier that year ran 142 miles per hour. Move up a generation or so to 1985. Scott Brayton and Rich Vogler are the two in that race who gave their lives to racing. Speeds had climbed to more than 200 mph by then. This still is 26 years ago.
The fatalities in Indy car racing have stayed on that level since due to safety improvements. Despite constant new ideas, race cars can only be so safe.
Dan Wheldon’s accident was an extremely bad one. What has to be done is not mandate more safety on the cars but make the races safer.
They were asking for trouble at Vegas. They started 34 cars, there were a few drivers not qualified to run the kind of pace these cars race at.
Eddie Cheever, a very astute former driver was correct when he stated that drivers need to be able to control the cars more, more use of the accelerator and brake. This kind of racing, like NASCAR’s restrictor plate, takes away both skill and control away from the driver. Having their feet to the floor all around the track is not a true test for anybody.
Wheldon’s death was the first in an Indy car race since Greg Moore’s passing at Fontana in 1999. There have been some practice victims, too.
Safety technology was also obvious at Saturday’s NASCAR Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jimmie Johnson’s wall crash had the same angle of attack and impact as Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash ten years ago. This time the track had soft impact walls and the driver had the Hans device. Jimmie walked away without a scratch.
It is annoying to hear the TV mouths praise NASCAR for the newer crash walls being used. If you will remember, NASCAR waffled using them for a while saying they were “under study.” Tony George went ahead and without fanfare installed them at IMS, shaming NASCAR into it.
I need to right a couple of wrongs from recent writings. First, Bob Sweikert went to the Lutes Truck Parts No. 17 in 1954, not the McNamara No. 73. I also made a gaffe that everyone seems to make saying “outside pole.” As one reader pointed out, there is no such thing and that is correct.
The “pole” jargon came from horse racing, which uses marker poles, furlongs apart on the inside of the track. Often you will hear a horse announcer say, “they are at the 4 pole,” So there are no poles on the outside of the track. So I guess one would have to say “outside of the pole.” Don’t count on that happening.
Another common mistake we all make is saying, “The leaders are coming up on lapped traffic.” This is seldom the case since they aren’t lapped yet.
My best wishes to Chris Economaki, who turned 91 Oct. 14. Many more, chief!
There Oct. 18 edition of Newsday, the largest suburban newspaper in the U.S. had a photo of Riverhead Raceway on its front page. The story behind it is a sad one.
It depicted Jason Trinca waving a checkered flag at his son’s casket.
The younger Trinca, also named Jason and his mother, Geri, 30, were
killed on Oct. 8 in a traffic accident. Jason was a champion go-kart racer at the speedway. They were on the way to a practice session at the track when the tragedy happened.
Two younger children were injured in the accident. The youngest, age
two is at home. The four year old remains at the hospital.
The procession took Jason around the track five laps but after the third tour, the father was overcome with grief. The entire community
of Eastport has given the family overwhelming support.