The pure dumbness of creating the 225 mph traffic jam of open wheel racers that killed IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon in Las Vegas is well-addressed elsewhere and everywhere, so let's dispense with the following I-know-that-alreadies as we cut to the chase and establish the clear culpability of IndyCar race series management in the death of Dan Wheldon.
I-know-that-already #1: Auto racing is and always has been dangerous. It is one of the more refined modern blood sports, but make no mistake: a large percentage of people who are attracted to car racing are also attracted to car crashing. The element of danger is essential to the survival of the sport, and please be sure that every team owner and every experienced driver in Las Vegas, including Dan Wheldon, knew going in that racing 34 cars at high speeds on a short oval guaranteed at least one spectacular crash. (Checkmark).
I-know-that-already #2: Litigation in auto racing deaths is rarely productive. With gazillions of bucks flying around the paddocks each year, quiet money exceeding even the handsomest wrongful death judgment is easy to come by. Remember the Oak bedroom set offered by Uncle Marcellus in absentia via Winston Wolf as compensation for “Jimmie’s” soon-to-be-bloodstained bedsheets in Pulp Fiction? x 1000 if Uncles Roger & Chip, et al. open their checkbooks. (Open Box).
Now, on to why Indy Racing League LLC has already laid its culpability in the death of Dan Wheldon out for the world on a silver platter:
1. Runs commercials all season long featuring spectacular wrecks – standard race promotion that works just swell until the act is used against you in some cop, judge, and jury internet blog to explain why you planned everything but the fine details of a race car driver’s death. (Checkmark).
2. Spends the entire season tinkering with rules, ignoring rules, changing rules with the clear objective of turning humans and race cars into multi-billion-dollar bugs fighting in a jar (double-file restarts on ovals, double-file restarts in downpours on ovals, infinity-abreast pit lane permission funneling cars to tighter pit box parking than a Yonkers commuter lot, etc.). (Checkmark).
3. Promotes grand end-of-season “Shoot-out in Vegas” where drivers from other auto racing disciplines who potentially have never even driven a high-speed oval are invited to help jam as many square feet of a small-but-high-speed-oval as (im)possible to absolutely, positively guarantee that there will be no “race” – just inevitable multi-car pileups born of congestion, inexperience, and high speed with resulting yellow flags and subsequent crash-causing restarts that together with subsequent-subsequent WWE-worthy finger-flipping driver drama will provide teaser clips for IZOD Indy 2012. (Checkmark ... still weighing those teaser clips for 2012)
So there’s the silver platter, but does it matter?
Already the shoulders are shrugging. Most of the above gimmicks are borrowed straight out of NASCAR restrictor plate racing, which is also designed to encourage frequent multi-car pileups. Someone booking this Vegas trip may have overlooked the odds of snake eyes in applying the principles of the taxi cab circus to roofless open-wheel cars that weigh half as much and travel 20-percent faster, but the rules for the game were on the table for everybody to see.
Note to Sponsors: This series doesn’t run without you, so clear-out the insular, entitled, incompetent Indy-culture management that has ascended to the usual friend-of-the-family unaccountability found in generationally wealthy family businesses. If the sight of Mari Hulman George doddering her way through “Drivers: start your engines” each year creeps you out, you should know that the same poor judgment that puts the world’s richest bag lady on worldwide television as the face of the IndyCar organization is putting your investment in U.S. open wheel racing at risk.
Note to Drivers and Owners: In 2001, CART drivers and management endured jeers from sideline critics after deciding the round-and-round race-day envelope at Texas Motor Speedway exceeded human limits. All the double-middle-fingers and tweeted love notes to Indy’s screwball race management this year was great theater, but leaving your cars off the grid when everyone can see a bad hand from across the casino shows the world you’re not bluffing.
I am the Car Czar, and I'm here to help.