Drivers preview of St. Petes

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Finally! We have Indycar racing this weekend! Helio Castroneves, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal sat down with the Indycar media cats and gave their thoughts on racing in St. Pete’s.

IndyCar and Ovals

I awoke today to find my current test car, an Infiniti FX50S covered in a mix of autumn leaves and snow, a sight I’ve never seen in October here in Connecticut. But that’s not why I’m posting this. I spent the afternoon at a family party upstate, and while enjoying drinks and football, my uncle saddles up to me-knowing I am a fan of open-wheel racing, he a NASCAR fan. Despite our differences, he wanted to talk about the loss of Dan Wheldon-not so much the man, but as to why. IndyCars race at ovals-we all know that. His contention was the modern tracks are designed for NASCAR type racing and speeds, which are slower than IndyCar, and the series should restrict itself to road courses.

He’s not alone. I once read Michael Schumacher, one of the best Formula One drivers of all time, was asked if he would ever race and the Indy 500, and he dismissed it, calling the racing ‘suicidal’. There’s the story of Champ Cars at Texas Motor Speedway, where in qualifying the cars were hitting 230mph, and driver’s complaining of vertigo. The race was cancelled for fear the drivers would black out at the wheel. And these drivers are among the fittest people on the planet.

IndyCar is steeped in oval racing. I don’t see a need to cancel oval racing outright, but I think the powers at be at IndyCar should evaluate what tracks work, and which tracks don’t. In any racing situation there is risk involved. But my uncle’s feeling that there are ovals out there that IndyCars are simply too fast for prompts me to ask you, the reader, how you feel about the subject. Please let us know what you think!

Indy 500 Winner Dan Wheldon Dies in Wreck

IndyCar race driver Dan Wheldon, age 33, died from injuries sustained at the Las Vegas Indy 300 today. Wheldon was involved in a horrific, fiery wreck involving 15 cars, sending his car airborne and into the fence. Wheldon moved from his native England to the United States with hopes of winning the Indianapolis 500-a feat he would accomplish twice, in 2005 and 2011. Wheldon was named Rookie of the Year in IndyCar in 2003, and was IndyCar series champion in 2005. Despite winning the Indy 500 this year, Wheldon did not have a formal ride for the season, the race at Las Vegas being his third start of the season. Wheldon was actively involved in testing the all-new Dallara chassis that will debut for the 2012 IndyCar season.

The passing of Dan Wheldon serves as a grim reminder of the risk that race drivers take whenever they strap into a race car. Wheldon was airlifted to a hospital, where he died of his injuries. When IndyCar announced his passing, officials cancelled the race, and Wheldon’s competitors were visibly upset. Dario Franchitti, who won the championship today, was seen crying in the cockpit of his race car-not the way anyone wants to achieve such a milestone. The drivers voted to do a five lap tribute to Wheldon, who took to the track in formation, while the somber sounds of ‘Amazing Grace’ were played on bagpipes.

Dan Wheldon is survived by his wife, Susie, and sons Sebastian, age 2, and Oliver, six months. The Garage extends their deepest sympathies to Dan Wheldon’s family, his team, and all his fans. As a two-time winner of one of the greatest spectacles in auto racing, Dan’s legacy in motorsport history is forever etched in stone. An exceptionally gifted driver, with an electrifying personality to boot, IndyCar, and auto racing has lost a talented and enigmatic icon.

Ed note: The following gallery shows Wheldon in action at the 2010 Honda Indy Toronto.

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The action is in the pits

Hinch gets strapped in

While the action is always hot out on the track, the real excitement for many happens on pit lane. The Garage Blog spent some time in pit lane with the Indycar series during practice and qualifying for the 2011 Honda Indy Toronto and came away with more than a few smokin’ hot photos.

Check out the excitement after the break.

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Hinch gets strapped in
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