Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon died Sunday in a fiery 15-car wreck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the final Izod IndyCar Series race of the season when his car flew over another on Lap 13 and smashed into the wall just outside Turn 2. Drivers were told of Wheldon’s death in a meeting about two hours after the fiery, smoky crash that many said was the worst they had ever seen. Said U.S. television commentator Eddie Cheever, “It’s the crash we all hoped would never happen.”
Following Wheldon’s death in the horrific accident, the remainder of the race — the marquee event of the IndyCar championship — was canceled. The remaining drivers, many of them visibly emotional after a meeting with IndyCar officials, did a five-lap salute in Wheldon’s honor as “Amazing Grace” played.
Wheldon was moving through traffic trying to gain position, having started deep in the 34-car field. He was not involved in the foul-up that started the situation, but at high speed, he couldn’t avoid the tangled metal. His car hit another and took flight, twisting through the air and colliding with the wall. Like others in the crash, Wheldon’s car burst into flames. Just seconds before the crash, an onboard camera was broadcasting live from his car. The entire 15-car pile-up occurred in just seconds, stunning the crowd.
“It was a chain reaction,” said Mario Andretti, who was on the scene. “On this track, cars run three abreast at upwards of 200 mph. The slightest miscue can be a disaster. That’s exactly what happened.”