Saturday, October 22, 2011

More Thoughts About Dan Wheldon Crash

I haven't forgotten about the Dan Wheldon incident.  It still irks me a little.

This is what we know about the Las Vegas race.  Indy Car was trying to incentivize non-Indy drivers to participate for rating's sake.  If you won, you got a cool $5 million BUCKS.  Indy Car hoped to get at least five other drivers to participate but they couldn't even get that many.  Even famous dirt-bike/rally driver Travis Pastrana considered but backed out because he injured his leg.  Dan Wheldon was in the running for the jackpot although he and many others were reluctant because of the dangerous conditions.

Think Indy Cars traveling 220 mph without using the brakes.  Sure, that makes for safe conditions.  Coming that close to each other...all it took was one minor calculation and that's it.  The drivers couldn't even make it 11 of 200 laps in without a serious wreck.  NASCAR drivers could see this coming a mile away.  Sadly, Indy Car set up the drivers for this situation.  To quote this article which practically sums it up:

Danger equals excitement in auto racing, and they pushed this one too far. This is a sport that sells danger, and the drivers and their teams are professionals, beating death. It's the edge that creates so much of the thrill that fans pay to see.

But if you have a track where drivers will go three across, where they can't separate themselves from the pack, where they are going 225 mph, and it's all a cry out for attention? Well, that seems recklessly dangerous.

Part of this race's purpose was to stir the excitement of onlookers.  Oooo, a 220 mph race makes up for all those left turns!  Indy Car is losing ratings to NASCAR as well as Danica Patrick who is quitting at the end of the year.  The $5 mil jackpot was another last-ditch effort to get some cool names in the race and get ratings. Too bad it exploded in their faces.  Will veteran Indy Car racers still participate in the series in the future?

Remember that NASCAR officials slowed down stock cars to about 180-190 mph for safety's sake (boooo, that's boring).  Sure, the difference between 190 mph and 220 mph isn't that huge but the stopping distance exponentially increase the faster you are driving.  See this (just assume it goes up to 220 mph):

In other words, Indy Car should probably stick with technical courses.  Besides, no one likes driving in circles anyway.

The death of Dan Wheldon was capped by five slow laps at Las Vegas with "Amazing Grace" played over the speakers, a moment of silence during NASCAR's next race (including Dan Wheldon stickers on the drivers' helmets), a funeral in Indianapolis Florida (EDIT: oops, I'm sorry), and changes to Indy Car's rules.  That's good, very good.

The reason I'm still making a semi-big deal out of this incident is because I've always wanted to be a race car driver since when I was a kid.  But obviously I'm a bit scared to do for obvious reasons.  Hey, would I rather live my life without doing anything fun & exciting like this OR I give driving a try and take a risk?  What's the point of being safe this whole time when you may be taken out to heart disease or a traffic accident anyway?  Isn't life fragile enough to NOT have fun?  I read a survey once in which a bunch of 90+ year olds were asked what advice they could give for us young people.  One of them was "take more risks."  Wait didn't they already make a movie like that?

Racing is a passion. It’s what we drivers love. Sure, when we are out of the race car we can reflect on all the “what ifs” of a race. When it’s time to put that firesuit and helmet on and go do our job, those “what-ifs” evaporate. We are willing to risk it all hoping we don’t have to give it all for the reward at the end of the day.

Even NASCAR drivers sound off.  The worst sound a driver’s loved ones can experience at a racetrack is silence. The car finally stops and the dust settles. The team radio falls silent.

You know, here's an observation of mine.  And I'm NOT trying to start a religious debate here.  There are a few people that are so abhorrent of any kind of belief/faith whatsoever.  But how can you think that way?  You have faith that when you get up in the morning that you can go to work and come home safely.  That you'll live to see tomorrow.  That you'll be able to perform tasks to your fullest ability.  That you'll be there for your friends and family.  There's no guarantee or "proof" that any of these things will happen but you go out and work anyway.  What kind of life will you live if you DON'T have faith in these things?  You'll just mope around your house like some emo kid and accomplish nothing anyway.

Sooo....about racing, I know that many people who are into that stuff won't have the time, resources, or ability to drive fast cars.  That's why video games are so important.  We want to make good racing games to meet that need.  So that's why I get pissed off when I see the racing genre become infected with all these generic/mediocre racers.  That's just my three cents.  I wouldn't say "be safe" since that sounds contrary to my post.  Instead, I say "don't be stupid."

RIP Dan Wheldon, he was a good man.

Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.

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