IRL, drivers talk safety after Wheldon's death

The race car of driver Will Power goes airborne in the midst of a devastating crash during the IZOD...

The race car of driver Will Power goes airborne in the midst of a devastating crash during the IZOD IndyCar World Championship race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 16, 2011. (BARRY AMBROSE/Reuters)

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:01 PM ET

TORONTO - The IZOD IndyCar Series leadership group took the first steps this week to what many hope will lead to sweeping reforms of its safety standards in the wake of the tragic death of two-time Indianapolis 500 star Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard and vice president of technology Will Phillips met privately at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with more than half of the 45 drivers who raced this season in the series to talk over what needs to be done to make North America’s top open wheel racing loop safer.

What came out of the meeting — according an official release from IndyCar — was that in its initial response, series bosses have established a committee of safety and competition officials who will evaluate data from the deadly Las Vegas crash and make “a factual determination of the circumstances surrounding the entire incident.”

These experts — who will be from outside IndyCar — will gather all of the crash data, analyze the results and then hand it over to another independent, third party for verification.

All of this is going to be done post haste, with the first findings expected in the next several weeks.

“We must continue to move forward with a thorough investigation,” Bernard said. “Fortunately, that has already begun, and we have the protocols in place to get this done. This was a tragic accident, and IndyCar needs to understand everything possible about it.”

Once the two independent groups have offered up their opinions and conclusions as to what happened at Las Vegas, those findings will be turned over to IndyCar to use what was “learned in Phase 1 to minimize risks in the future.”

Tomas Scheckter, one of the drivers at the meeting, told the Wall Street Journal afterwards that one of the issues brought up was that new rules — like double file re-starts — that were instituted to make open wheel racing more exciting may, in fact, have made the racing more dangerous.

“They gave a chance for drivers to speak a little bit, which is a sign in the right direction,” Scheckter said. “Hopefully things will move in a positive direction.”

While Scheckter and others would not go into detail about specifics of the meeting, there was a general consensus that discussions were frank and open.

“Obviously it was a private meeting, but we all got to talk a lot, listen a lot, and look at how we can improve things in a lot of areas,” four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti said. “I think it was a very positive and productive meeting and that’s the first step, I think.”

Tony Kanaan told Sports Illustrated that while there wasn’t any instant solution to safety issues offered up, there were some very productive suggestions.

“We’re not deciding anything today; we had a brainstorming session and even then we will not fix everything then, either,” Kanaan said. “We have to make it better but we can’t fix everything. We are so unified right now and in a way we are going to be in a lot more communication with the series. Now, we have a lot of work to do and will be speaking a lot more about safety and change.”

POWER STILL HURTING

Australia’s Will Power, who was part of the 15-car pile-up at Las Vegas found out this week his injuries as a result of that wreck were more serious than first diagnosed.

Power complained of a sore lower back and was sent to hospital right after the crash but was released after the original examination showed no fractures.

But a second exam by IndyCar’s orthopedic surgery expert Dr. Terry Trammell showed a compression fracture of Power’s fourth thoracic vertebra. The cure is rest and rehabilitation.

Power suffered a similar injury at Infineon Raceway in 2009 that some feared would end his career.

FINISH LINES

Canadian-based Jensen MotorSport has offered 21-year-old, Armaan Ebrahim, of Chennai, India, a chance to test with the Indy Lights team this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway scheduled for October 28th and 29th. Ebrahim has an extensive resume of racing experience, which includes competition in the Formula 2, Formula BMW, and GP2 series ... Motocross superstar James Stewart has signed a multi-year deal with Joe Gibbs Racing MX team that will seem him eventually move to stock car racing with JGR’s NASCAR outfit. According to USA Today, Stewart will test in a late-model stock car next week.

BAYNE OUTBURST COULD BE COSTLY

The question on many minds in he NASCAR Sprint Cup garage after Talladega was: “Has Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne torpedoed his career?”

Bayne, who presented NASCAR and Ford Racing with a fresh, new 20-year-old face in the weeks and months after his unlikely victory at Daytona International Speedway in February, acted like a spoiled child at Talladega when he alleged he was ordered to stop helping Chevrolet drive Jeff Gordon in the late-race draft.

After the race Bayne petulantly used his Twitter account to express his displeasure at having to obey team orders.

“I’m not happy about what this has become,” Bayne wrote. “It’s too premeditated. We should be able to go with whoever is around. I would have rather pulled over and finished last than tell (Gordon) I would work with him and then be strong armed into bailing.”

Earth to Trevor Bayne: Team orders have been part of racing since gasoline was first used to power the internal combustion engine.

Bayne in his fit of pique may have cost himself a job at Roush Fenway Racing, where many had him pencilled in to drive the No. 6 RFR Ford in Sprint Cup next season.

If you think otherwise, read between the lines of a release sent out Tuesday by Jack Roush: “At Roush Fenway Racing we expect our individual drivers to make decisions that put themselves in the best position to win each and every race. Trevor is extremely talented, but it is still very early in his career. Over time he will grow to understand that in such a high-paced, competitive and hostile environment it is unlikely that all of his decisions will make everyone happy.”

Ouch!

DEAN’S RANT

Looking at the Chase for he Sprint Cup championship standings after Talladega, it looks increasingly like Jimmie Johnson’s remarkable string of five consecutive titles will come to an end this season.

The No. 48 Chevrolet team sits 50 points back of leader Carl Edwards with only four races left on the schedule.

Now, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that Johnson could pull a Lazarus and rise from the dead to get that sixth Cup, but it would take another biblical-type miracle to pull it off.

Best we just look back at he past six years and reflect on Johnson’s extraordinary accomplishments.

Over that time Johnson has been to Victory Lane 37 times.

That is a whole NASCAR Sprint Cup season — plus one — worth of wins. And in the same time span, Johnson has driven the Lowe’s Chevy to 94 top-five finishes.

To put those numbers into perspective, Johnson finished in the top five 40% of the time.

In baseball terms, that is equal to a batter hitting .400 for six consecutive seasons.

And at 36, Johnson still has time to get a couple of more championships to put his name alongside the Mount Rushmore-like careers of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

BOWYER SAD TO BEAT TEAMMATE, HAPPY TO WIN RACE

Clint Bowyer said he sort of felt bad for his Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton as he passed him down the back straight at Talladega Super Speedway on Sunday in the Good Sam Club 500.

So bad that he didn’t even want to look at him as he made is move for the win.

But not so bad that he would give the win back.

“Going down the back straightaway, I wasn’t even looking at him. I already felt bad for him.

“He worked so well with me all day long. You hate that it comes down to that.

“But trust me ... he’s already won a lot of races. I think he’s won like 20 some races, I’ve only won five.”


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