E3 Spark Plugs joins the entire racing community in mourning the loss of Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon, who was killed Sunday in a violent 15-car crash at the Izod IndyCar World Championships finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Wheldon was racing as part of a promotion that would have landed a $5 million prize, to be split with a sweepstakes winner, for a series non-regular who won the race. Starting at the back of the 34-car field, Wheldon had worked his way to up some 10 spots by the 12th lap of the 200-lap race when two cars touched in front of him. That touch set of a disastrous chain reaction that would claim 15 cars. Wheldon was unable to slow down before impact. His car launched over the back of another car, turned in midair and slammed into the catch fence. Rescue workers responded quickly and Wheldon was airlifted to a nearby hospital, but doctors were unable to save him.
“Right now I’m numb and speechless,” former teammate and childhood friend Dario Franchitti told reporters. “We put so much pressure on ourselves to win races and championships and today it doesn’t matter.”
Officials suspended the race for more than two hours. When news came that Wheldon didn’t survive the crash, drivers returned to the track only for a five-lap tribute and did not finish the race. Just hours before his death, the 33-year-old reportedly had agreed to a full-time racing deal for 2012. He leaves behind wife Susie, two-year-old son Sebastian and infant son Oliver.