The shock of yesterday is beginning to wear off and I’m already beginning to think about why it happened and what can be done to prevent it in the future. Now, though, isn’t the time to dissect the crash and the circumstances surrounding it; that comes after family, friends, and fans of Dan Wheldon have had the opportunity to properly mourn and memorialize him.
The similarities between Wheldon’s crash and death and that of Greg Moore in 1999 have really struck me. Both crashes took place on high speed ovals; Moore at California, Wheldon at Las Vegas. Both drivers were about to begin new chapters in their careers; Moore with Penske, surely it would have seen him become a great champion and Wheldon returning to Andretti Autosport where he surely would have helped return the team to previous levels of success. Moore and Wheldon shared some of the same friends, such as Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan. It’s been eerie to contemplate.
Today I’ve been thinking back to yesterday and what I’ll remember about it. There are definitely some things I’ll never forget:
- The benefit of watching the race with a community of race fans on Twitter. Having that community of fans to grieve with was a support for those who were taking it very hard. It offered a way for many of us to share our thoughts; it was a form of emotional release. I was here in Brunswick watching alone and I was glad that I had my fellow race fans to talk to throughout the afternoon and evening.
- The image of a grieving Tony Kanaan being consoled on the pit wall by his team owner and retired racer Jimmy Vasser.
- The image of a sobbing Dario Franchitti in his car, preparing for the 5 lap rows of three tribute, being consoled by his crew.
- Rows of three lapping the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for 5 laps as “Amazing Grace” was played on bag pipes. I began to tear up when I saw Jimmy Vasser consoling Tony Kanaan but when “Amazing Grace” on the pipes began to played during the 5 lap tribute, I couldn’t hold it in any longer.
- The outstanding job done by ABC/ESPN in an emotional situation. It can’t be difficult to cover something like that but the ABC/ESPN crew handled it with grace and tact. I’ve been very critical of their race coverage the last few seasons and very critical of Marty Reid in particular. Yesterday, Marty Reid atoned for it all. His closing words on the finality of good bye and his good bye to Dan Wheldon were the proper way to close the broadcast: simple, emotional, and fitting.
- The beyond his years wisdom of racer Martin Plowman, a driver from the generation after Wheldon. I found his words and the bible verses he tweeted after the race to be some of the most astute I read. My respect for “Plowey” has grown.