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Oval Track Contribute to Dan Wheldon's Death?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on October 17, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Should the IndyCar oval be a thing of the past? And do promoters have a legal obligation to stop using such tracks?

These are the questions being raised just a day after IndyCar racer Dan Wheldon was killed at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A 15-car pile-up on the 1.5-mile oval caused his car to go flying into the air and crash.

The day before, a number of drivers, including Wheldon, had expressed their concerns over such a possibility. With 34 cars going 225 mph, the situation didn't seem safe.

This is because IndyCar cars are not made for ovals. The cars are built for street and road courses, according to NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson. They simply go too fast.

This then causes them to bump into one another, which is a problem unto itself. IndyCar cars have open cockpits and wheels, Johnson explained to ESPN, and thus can't withstand bumping at high speeds.

By this logic alone, the IndyCar oval should probably be retired. But does it have to be?

Maybe, maybe not.

On some level, IndyCar and race promoters have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of all drivers. In this particular instance, they knew of safety concerns, yet did nothing to allay fears.

They could have moved the race to the desert, or to a different track. They could have pulled some of the drivers. They chose to do none of these things.

However, Dan Wheldon and other drivers still chose to race. Just as IndyCar has a legal duty to protect drivers, drivers have a legal duty to protect themselves.

If racers keep agreeing to drive the IndyCar oval, the league will continue to discount its dangers. And they may be legally entitled to do so.

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