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Reason for Dana Crash May Not Be Discerned


flyingtiger1013

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Did you see this crash? :( Horrifying!

http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0306/313761.html

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) - It may never be clear why Paul Dana stayed in the gas, why he didn't notice the danger signs in time, why he died the day his dream of driving for an elite IRL team was finally coming true. With yellow lights flashing and other drivers slowing around him, the up-and-coming rookie slammed into a stopped car at close to 200 mph during a warmup session Sunday, sending his shattered car flying.

Two hours after the scattered remains of Dana's Honda-powered Panoz came to rest, the 30-year-old driver was pronounced dead at a hospital.

"Obviously, this is a very black day for us," team co-owner Bobby Rahal said. "This is a great tragedy."

The race went on as planned, and if the drivers had any jitters going in, it didn't show: Defending Indy 500 and IRL points champion Dan Wheldon beat Helio Castroneves by a nose cone after a spectacular side-by-side duel in the final laps en route to the thrilling finish - one of the closest in Indy Racing League history.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dana family and all of Rahal Letterman racing," said Wheldon, who ran the race with Dana's No. 17 on his side pod. "It's a very, very sad day. I think hopefully we put on a good race."

About 30 minutes into the warmup session several hours before, Ed Carpenter's car skidded off the concrete wall and spun down the track at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Cars began slowing and weaving to avoid Carpenter's crippled ride - with the inexplicable exception of Dana.

The former motorsports journalist who was living his dream of driving for a living kept his foot on the gas and rocketed past at least two other cars before slamming into Carpenter at nearly full speed.

"He carried way too much speed in and wasn't aware of what was going on around him," said Buddy Lazier, a former Indianapolis 500 winner and one of the drivers Dana shot past before the crash.

Dana's onboard telemetry showed he braked only tenths of a second before the impact. The car nearly split in half, flying six feet in the air and nearly turning over before it landed on its wheels and slid to a halt.

"I really don't know at this point what happened or who was at fault," said George, founder of the IRL, which began competition in 1996. "It's just a real shame. I don't know that it was inexperience. I don't want to say anything about that."

Both drivers were flown by helicopter to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where Dana was pronounced dead about two hours after the 10:03 a.m. crash. IRL officials said tests revealed no injuries to Carpenter, but the 25-year-old third-year driver was kept overnight for observation.

Dana died just hours from beginning his most promising season yet. After a string of modest successes rising through racing's ranks, he had finally gotten his big break in the months before the season-opening IRL IndyCar Series race here, securing a ride with the elite Rahal Letterman Racing - the same team that fields IRL phenom Danica Patrick and former Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice.

Patrick and Rice did not run in Sunday's race. Dana's wife, Tonya, was in Indianapolis, where the couple lived, and was notified of her husband's death while attending a church service.

Two days before his death - the first fatality in the IRL in three years - Dana was strolling through the paddock, shaking hands and signing autographs.

"I can't wait to get started because I want to prove to everyone that I can do the job," Dana told a longtime acquaintance. "I'm feeling good and I know I can race with these guys. And now I've got great equipment."

Dana, who began his career in Formula Fords and worked his way up through the ranks, was known as a strong self promoter. He got his new ride by bringing the Ethanol sponsorship to the Rahal Letterman team over the winter.

Dana's previous three IRL races with Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing came at the start of the 2005 season. He finished a season-best 10th at Homestead, but his year ended in May when he sustained a broken back while practicing for the Indianapolis 500.

Neither IRL nor team officials had any explanation for Dana's failure to slow down for several seconds after the yellow lights came on around the track.

"That's just the first time of the weekend that we got all 20 cars on the track at the same time," said IRL president Brian Barnhart. "Ed had his problem in turn two initially. The yellow lights were called immediately and all systems functioned properly. It's just a busy time out there, with a lot of cars and a lot of traffic."

Rahal said he knew of no problem with communications.

"The spotter made clear the incident," Rahal said. "From what I could see, there was a car on the outside. Paul was just passing or had just passed, but I think it would be conjecture and probably very irresponsible for me to try to dissect as to why what happened, happened. But there was no problem with communication."

A moment of silence was observed before the start of the 300-mile race. Otherwise, the prerace ceremonies, including the introduction of the remaining 17 drivers, went according to schedule.

Several drivers dedicated their race to Dana, but the fatality didn't slow them down a bit. The crowd was on its feet for the final 20 laps and the spectacular finish. The winning margin of 0.0147-seconds was the ninth closest finish in league history, and there were no serious accidents in the race.

Wheldon has now won two straight races for his new team, Chip Ganassi Racing. He also combined with new IRL teammate Scott Dixon and Ganassi NASCAR driver Casey Mears to win the Daytona 24-hour sports car endurance race.

"It's difficult to race under such circumstances," Wheldon said. "It's a job and it can be pretty vicious at times. But there can be a lot of highs as well."

Rahal, who co-owns the team with television talk show host David Letterman, said the plan was to field cars for Patrick and Rice at next Sunday's race in St. Petersburg, Fla. He said any future plans for the No. 17 entry, the car driven by Dana, "are unclear at this time."

"Paul Dana's passing is a terrible tragedy and I want to express my condolences and sympathies to his family and friends," Letterman said in a statement. "I did not know Paul personally, but we were all proud to have him on our team and are deeply saddened by his tragic passing at such a young age."

Dana is the first IRL driver killed since Tony Renna died in a crash during testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October 2003. Scott Brayton also died in a crash during practice for the 1996 Indy 500.

The last NASCAR driver killed was Dale Earnhardt in February 2001, the last driver to die in Formula One was Ayrton Senna in May 1994, and the last driver killed in the Champ Car World Series was Greg Moore in 1999.

It is the third racing death at the Homestead track - John Nemechek was killed in a NASCAR truck race in February 1997 and Jeff Clinton died in a Grand Am sports car event at the track in March 2002.

The IRL also had a tragedy in May 1999 when a wheel from a car sailed into the grandstand at what was then Charlotte Motor Speedway, killing three spectators and injuring eight others.

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I saw the crash yesterday. Initially I thought the driver who spun out first was the one killed. I think Dana crashed due to inexperience. Read between the lines. No one wants to say it but this screams "driver error". Auto racing is a fast sport... experience counts.

About 30 minutes into the warmup session several hours before, Ed Carpenter's car skidded off the concrete wall and spun down the track at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Cars began slowing and weaving to avoid Carpenter's crippled ride - with the inexplicable exception of Dana.

The former motorsports journalist who was living his dream of driving for a living kept his foot on the gas and rocketed past at least two other cars before slamming into Carpenter at nearly full speed.

...

Neither IRL nor team officials had any explanation for Dana's failure to slow down for several seconds after the yellow lights came on around the track.

...
"The spotter made clear the incident," Rahal said. "From what I could see, there was a car on the outside. Paul was just passing or had just passed, but I think it would be conjecture and probably very irresponsible for me to try to dissect as to why what happened, happened. But there was no problem with communication."
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If everything the article said is true, it looks like it was driver error. Very sad.

I can't think of seeing any racing accident that looked worse than that outside of NHRA.

endzone,the other driver had to have seen the crash and should have slowed down immediately.
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