Today the Motorsports world as a whole suffered a devastating blow when IndyCar's Dan Wheldon lost his life in a wreck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That blow was compounded by the plane crash that took the life of Champion Off Road racer Rick Huseman and his brother Jeff.
I don't need to go into detail either tragedy here, there are plenty of legitimate news sources where the details are written out.
I will be the first to admit, I am not a huge IndyCar fan. I enjoy watching it, but I don't follow it with the same intensity as I do with NASCAR. However, I know enough to recognize the names of key drivers, and I remember Wheldon's Indy 500 win this year.
I would periodically watch the Lucas Off Road Series (when I could find it on TV) so I knew who Rick Huseman was too. Kinda hard to miss the Monster Energy Toyota that would tear up the dirt tracks.
A wreck like today in IndyCar, when it takes the life of a driver, affects ALL of motorsports. The vehicles and players may be different, but there's still that common bond between the drivers and team members, that love for the sport. The same can be said of the fans.
Huseman's death, while not on the track with millions of witnesses live and via television, is no less tragic.
That sense of loss affects us all.
Watching the coverage of today's race, the wreck, the red flag interviews before Wheldon was airlifted to the hospital, listening to the broadcasters and the reporters… I don't envy them their jobs when they have to cover the downside of racing, and have to keep it together emotionally while on the air.
I am also thinking back to Saturday night's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Jimmie Johnson hit the wall in Turn 2, in a way very reminiscent to the crash that took Dale Earnhardt's life in 2001. Thanks to the innovations of the safer barrier, and the HANS device, Johnson is walking around with just a bit of soreness instead of it being more serious. Still, Johnson's crash was scary to watch.
The safety protocols in place for the cars, drivers and tracks have saved a lot of lives and prevented a lot of horrible injuries. In a way that makes a lot of us, as fans, maybe even as drivers, a little more complacent, or maybe even blasé regarding the wrecks that do happen. Until a wreck like today that took Wheldon's life
Maybe the fans of open wheel and drag racing are more aware of the devastation that can happen when a wreck occurs than those of us that follow stock car racing. Especially post-2001's tragedy. Most especially with the advent of the COT. It may look like a brick, but they've built in a lot of safety. The open wheels, the dragsters, they're a lot faster and a lot more vulnerable.
With all those safety protocols in place, we forget how dangerous all of the motorsports really can be.
For my fellow NASCAR fans, next time a driver you dislike crashes into a wall, don't cheer for it, don't gloat. Be grateful that driver is alive for you to continue to dislike, that he/she is not seriously injured. Say a prayer to whatever deity you pray to that all of these drivers stay safe as they do the sport they love, and we love to watch.
With Talladega next in the queue, I pray for the safety of them all.
Godspeed, Dan Wheldon and Rick Huseman.
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