October 17, 2011
Vince Neil & Michael
Nancy & Bob
I recall a scene in the wonderful Ken Burns documentary, “The Civil War” when writer Shelby Foote said that every Southerner would like to go back to the time just before the battle of Gettysburg, before the events that turned the fate of the South. Not so much because it would have altered the inevitable outcome, but because they could return to a time when hope and possibility was still there. I thought of that when I knew that I had to go back and write about race day at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It is difficult to go back and recall the excitement, fun and air of anticipation prior to the tragedy that struck on lap twelve that claimed the life of Dan Wheldon.
I have covered as best I could the tragedy and its sudden and devastating impact previously, but now I have to go back and try to recall the day leading up to the tragedy- one that until that moment held the promise and hope for an amazing race. The weather was beautiful once again, we experienced a few days of unseasonably warm temperatures for Las Vegas in October. Being from Key West the warmth was great in that there was almost zero humidity and it felt really comfortable and about perfect.
We rode out to the track on a comfy shuttle bus from Mandalay Bay, arriving early to take in all the pre-race activities and to watch the Indy Lights race. The race was pretty exciting and offered a small foreshadowing of the Indy Car race for anyone paying close attention. The first eight laps were as crazy as any racing that I have ever seen. Nose to tail, three and four wide, darting and weaving and basically crazy driving led to an inevitable bad scary wreck on lap eight involving three cars. Thankfully nobody was injured, but it seemed to shock the remaining drivers to drive under much more control for the remainder of the race.
Kathy, Bob & Nancy
The last lap was thrilling as well as Josef Newgarden who had dominated the race had his tire cut down in a skirmish with Victor Carbone, who was able to dart around on the final lap and take the win. His teammate Esteban Guerrieri finished second. Newgarden had already clinched the Indy Lights championship.
After the race, we all headed down into the Neon Garage and pits to watch the preparations for the Indy Car race. The pit lane just before the start of a race is a thrilling place to be, and anticipation of the race, championship battle , seeing Danica’s final Indy Car race before heading to NASCAR and the final race with this style of car all added to the excitement.
We visited with my Indy Car friends on pit row, my buddy Jason is on Marco Andretti’s team which was being visited by a couple of celebrities during the pre-race. Pauly D from the reality TV show the Jersey Shore, which I am not all that familiar with and Vince Neil, lead singer of the band Motley Crue who I was excited to meet. Everyone was in a great mood as Marco’s chances in the race looked very promising and it was cool to hang out on pit row with the team.
Jason & Pauly D
Oriol Servia & Tony Kanaan
I also visited with my friend Bob who works on the Indy Car safety team, we shared our concerns about the safety of the race, especially after seeing the Indy Lights race, but little did I realized when I wished him a safe race, that he would with-in minutes be dealing with the most tragic and horrible racing incident of his racing career. The first few laps were exciting enough, but it seemed obvious that some of the drivers did not learn the lessons from the Indy Lights race. Sadly on lap twelve, the worst case scenario happened and the great promise and hopes for the day came crashing down in a million pieces of wrecked cars and the passing of one of racing’s great champions.
Indy Car start