It took just 11 laps for tragedy to strike at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday. Just 11 laps into the final race of the season, a mass of metal and fire enveloped the track as cars were sent scattering in all directions. In total, 15 cars were caught up in the wreck, and Dan Wheldon lost his life due to "unsurvivable injuries."
Like many drivers, Danica Patrick was worried about the speeds and close-quarters driving at Las Vegas ahead of the race. With a huge field, one car bigger than that of the Indianapolis 500, ripping around at over 220 miles per hour, there was little room for error. One mistake could, and did, cause the big one.
"I was really nervous coming into today," Patrick said before knowing Wheldon had died. "Then it happened. It was like a movie scene they try to make look as gnarly as possible. Chunks of fire were everywhere and we were driving through it."
Dario Franchitti echoed Patrick's sentiments about the inherent dangers at the track.
"Within five laps people started to do crazy stuff," Franchitti said immediately after the accident. "I wanted no part of it. I love hard racing, but that to me is not what it's about.
"I said before this is not a suitable track. You can't get away from anybody. One small mistake and you have a massive wreck."
But Pop Off Valve's Tony Johns said it best following Wheldon's passing. Now is not the time to fight the battle; it's a time to remember Wheldon.
Again, though, that is a battle to be fought another day. It WILL be fought, because there are some who are already digging their trenches and readying their barrages to defend their positions. But I do not have the stomach for it. All I can think of now is Dan Wheldon's family and their sorrow, and the fact that the light and happiness that Dan brought to their lives - indeed, to all of our lives - has been lost forever.
The discussions will come, and changes should be made, but there's time for this all to play out. For now, the attention is, rightfully, on Wheldon, the family he leaves behind and the life he led.