Investigation, Concerns After IndyCar Death

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Fans, drivers and teams stand in honor of Dan Wheldon who died following a crash in the IndyCar Series' Las Vegas Indy 300 auto on Sunday. Wheldon was driving car No. 77. (AP)
Fans, drivers and teams stand in honor of Dan Wheldon, who died following a crash in the IndyCar Series' Las Vegas Indy 300 on Sunday. Wheldon was driving car No. 77. (AP)

A fiery 15-car crash led to the injury of three drivers and the death of 33-year-old Dan Wheldon at the IndyCar Series Las Vegas Indy 300 race last weekend at the Las Vegas Speedway.

Bill Littlefield speaks with Alexandra Berzon, reporter for The Wall Street Journal, whose recent article, "Risks Haunted Fatal Race," highlights the questions that have been raised following Sunday's wreck.

Randy Bernard, former marketing guru for the Professional Bull Riders Association and CEO of IndyCar since March 2010, has vowed to increase enthusiasm about the sport of Indy racing. As Berzon points out, one method used to create excitement surrounding Sunday's race was to play up the dangers for drivers.

Promotional materials released before the race advertised a new track that was unusually "fast and smooth."

Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was quoted as saying "All it takes is one mistake by one driver, and it could be huge consequences. This should be a nail-biter for the fans, and it's going to be insane for the drivers."

Following Wheldon's death and Tuesday's launch of an investigation into the causes of the crash, some are wondering if IndyCar and Bernard actually underestimated the dangers of the race.

"There's been other races in the last year and a half, two years where drivers have complained about the danger of certain circumstances," says Berzon. "And following this, as well, I think there has been quiet a bit of concern...that they were putting entertainment ahead of some of the safety issues."

Although Berzon says the IndyCar league has not announced any details of their future plans following the crash, Berzon expects that, at the very least, some additional safety features will be installed in the new cars coming out next year.

"Several people I've talked to have said that they think that the cars will be safer, for a variety of reasons," Berzon says. "They were designed to address some particular concerns, so that will be one change for next year."

However, Berzon also points out that deadly crashes are rare in the sport. Moving forward from the tragic incident, she believes that the IndyCar Series will seek a middle ground between excitement and safety.

"Fans want to see excitement," Berzon says. "They want to see the cars race together. They want it to at least appear dangerous, on some level, and that there's some risk involved. And the drivers are always going to go full on. It's up to the league to create the environment that creates the most safety. You have to find the right formula to keep people interested and also keep people safe."

This segment aired on October 22, 2011.


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