Courtesy of MCT
Anyone who has passionately played a sport, or watched their favorite sports team compete, has experienced the thrill of victory and agony of defeat. On Oct. 16, the thrill of victory was taken away, and defeat was no reason for agony, for drivers, teams and fans of the IndyCar Series.
This was supposed to be a great day for IndyCar. It was the final race of the season and a series champion was to be crowned. It was also the first time the series returned to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 11 years. But this is not why the day will never be forgotten in motorsports.
On the 11th lap of Sunday’s IndyCar World Championship event, 15 of the field’s 34 drivers were involved in what may be the most destructive auto racing crash I have ever seen. One of those 15 drivers was Dan Wheldon, who was racing for only the third time this season, but had achieved great success this year by winning the series’s most prominent race, the Indianapolis 500, for a second time this May.
Unfortunately, Wheldon was after the thrill of victory, but he never got the chance to experience the agony of defeat, for he was killed in that instant.
After Wheldon’s death was announced, the drivers unanimously decided to cancel the race. They finished with five tribute laps to honor Wheldon. No longer did it matter who won the championship. Dario Franchitti clinched the title for the third consecutive time, but it was not mentioned on the TV broadcast and it seemed to be the farthest thing from Franchitti’s mind.
On this day, that thrill of winning a championship was taken away from Franchitti. Instead, he experienced an agony far greater than defeat. Both he and his friend had taken the track for the race that day, but his friend never made it off. I imagine that Franchitti would give all of his championships back for Wheldon to return to life; from Franchitti’s pure emotion in the moment, that was clear.
I had no plans to watch any of the IndyCar race on this day. The race could have come and gone and I would probably not have taken any notice, opting instead to focus on NFL football games. After learning of Wheldon’s death, and witnessing the tribute, enjoying the football games became impossible.
We should all continue to enjoy sports, celebrating when our teams are victorious, and languishing in the disappointment of their defeats. Whether or not one is a fan of auto racing, this event should force one to put the grand picture of sports into perspective. In the IndyCar community, when one man was lost, the entire community bonded together. No one was a winner on this day, but one driver lost everything. One family lost a husband and father. One sport lost a star. One community lost one of its own.
There was no agony of defeat on this day, just a shared sadness. With IndyCar now in its offseason, there is little doubt that the series community will continue to help each other and Wheldon’s family through the tough healing process.