Sunday marked the fifth anniversary of the tragic death of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon.
Just 4 ½ months after winning the Indianapolis 500 for the second time (also won in 2005), Wheldon was killed on Oct. 16, 2011 in a massive 15-car crash during the then-IZOD IndyCar season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The English native was just 33 years old.
Wheldon’s car went airborne and he was killed almost instantly when his head struck a pole that supported part of the catchfence on the backstretch of the track. The official cause of death was ruled blunt force trauma. The race was immediately red flagged and never resumed out of respect to Wheldon and his family, although a five-lap tribute occurred later that afternoon.
Sadly, on the morning of his death and before the race, Wheldon had signed a multi-year contract to race for Andretti Autosport beginning in 2012. Wheldon had won both the 2005 Indy 500 and that season’s IndyCar championship in a previous stint with the Andretti organization.
Although it’s been five years since his passing, Wheldon’s memory is still alive. A number of drivers and fans, as well as Wheldon’s sister Holly, took to social media on Sunday to remember him. Here are a few of those posts:
In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.
Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.
Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.
The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.
“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”
Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.
SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.
When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.
SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.
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