The question must be asked:
Would the Moto GP Grand Prix of Malaysia motorcycle race have been stopped and subsequently cancelled Sunday, after Italian star Marco Simoncelli was killed early in the race, if the IZOD IndyCar Series hadn’t stopped the race at Las Vegas a week ago in which Dan Wheldon died?
In a decision that continues to attract comments from both the pro and con sides, the IndyCar organization opted not to restart the Las Vegas race after Wheldon was killed in a 15-car pileup, which was arguably the worst crash in the history of Indy car racing.
It was also the first time a major league auto race was cancelled following a fatal accident.
At the Sepang course in Malaysia Sunday, Simoncelli – who, at 24, was seen as a future world champion but had a huge reputation for recklessness – collided with two other motorcycles and died in the ensuing crash (link here).
The decision by race officials not to restart the race was a first for top-flight motorcycle racing. As was the case with the IndyCar decision, it had never happened before.
At the 2010 Moto GP meeting at the San Marino course in Italy, 19-year-old Japanese rider Shoya Tomizawa was killed in a Moto2 race but that didn't stop anything. At Suzuka, in 2003, during the Japanese Grand Prix, another Japanese rider, Daijiro Kato, was killed and yet the racing continued. At the Ilse of Man Tourist Trophy Races, three riders were killed in August and - well, you know the rest.
There is no doubt that IndyCar’s actions have set a precedent. Before Wheldon, the show always went on. From now on, though, maybe not.
Tony Stewart has finally commented on the Wheldon accident:
Although several stock car and formula car drivers commented on the Dan Wheldon accident at Las Vegas, others remained silent. One in particular, Tony Stewart, is an open wheel racing veteran who was an IRL champion in the 1990s before going to NASCAR. He broke his silence at the weekend, when reporters asked him about it:
"It's part of racing, it's part of what can happen.
"Everybody is a back chair quarterback going, ‘No, we should do this or we shouldn't do that.’ It's racing; I mean it's always been racing. Auto racing as a whole is safer than it's ever been.
"It still boils down to the people that are steering the cars around. It's not that the cars are unsafe, there's still people that tell the cars where to go so we've got to take responsibility. There is no reason for anybody to point fault anywhere. There's no fault in it. It's racing.
"Racing has always been dangerous. That's why people come to watch races because there is an element of danger involved. You're never going to get it all out but like we said it's safer than it's ever been. It's a freak thing that happened and it can happen every race.
"I think everybody has got to take a deep breath and let the emotions settle down. Everybody is obviously thinking about Dan and his family, his wife and two children. There's a lot of great charity stuff coming up to help them out which we are really proud to be a part of but I think everybody has to take a step back from it and realize this is auto racing.
"It's always been dangerous but everybody still does it. If it was so bad, none of us would want to do this but we still love doing this every week and it's just part of the sport unfortunately. It's never going to be 100 per cent safe."
Dan Wheldon knew the dangers. In 2003, he told a British interviewer this:
"Formula One drivers think their branch of motor racing is dangerous, but it's a lot safer than roaring round an oval. There are no gravel traps on this circuit. If you touch another car or make a mistake, there are two ways you can go - towards the relative safety of the infield or bang into concrete.
"But it’s the risk factor that makes it so appealing to me. You are driving on the limit, knowing if you go beyond it you could be history."
Here is something Sebastien Bourdais said, as reported in the Nov. 2011, edition of Racer magazine:
"... Contrary to rumors that Bourdais and his wife Claire had decided ovals were too dangerous, "Seabass" insists his Peugeot sports car commitments prevented him from doing a full campaign in 2011. It's something he wishes to remedy in 2012.
"Claire wouldn't be thrilled to see me do the 1.5 mile ovals" he shrugs, "but I'm pretty good at it. I won the Las Vegas Champ Car race twice. Sure, for me, banked ovals don't create good racing. It's dangerous and it doesn't allow good drivers to shine.
"All they show is that you're as stupid as anyone else. So, do I like them? No. Am I good at them? Sure – I'm as stupid as anybody else out there."
Wheldon's funeral was held in Florida Saturday and a public memorial service was held Sunday in Indianapolis (see post below). Today, CEO Randy Bernard has asked the drivers to attend a meeting at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
It will be a "drivers-only" affair, but the drivers will undoubtedly talk afterward.
Okay, moving right along.
Marco Andretti is reportedly going to be a contestant this season on Celebrity Apprentice. The last time an IndyCar driver went on TV to do something other than race, Helio Castroneves won Dancing With the Stars. Can Marco do as well?
And here’s a "he-said-she-said" for you. Lewis Hamilton told the Daily Mail in England that he ended his relationship with ex-Pussycat Dolls singer and current talent show judge Nicole Scherzinger and she told the entertainment website TMZ that she ended her relationship with him. Regardless, they’ve broken up – again.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said this during the extremely boring NASCAR race from Talladega Sunday: "This isn’t my kind of racing." Mine neither. Another one like that and NASCAR is going to have to revisit restrictor plate racing at that speedway.
Clint Bowyer won, with Jeff Burton second and – what??? – Dave Blaney third. That had to have been Blaney’s best finish of his entire NASCAR Sprint Cup career. In fact, his best previous finish was – are you ready for this? – 19th in a race back in 2002.
With four races to go, Carl Edwards still leads the Chase, with Matt Kenseth second and Brad Keselowski third. Tony Stewart is fourth and knockin’ at the door. Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson are really too far out of first place to be thinking of winning, ergo NASCAR will crown a new Sprint Cup champion this year.
Finally, drag racer Ike Maier of Vaughan will close out the 2011 NHRA Drag Racing Series season at Las Vegas next weekend at the 11th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals.
He’ll be driving the all-Canadian Paton Racing Top Fuel Dragster with sponsorship from Tim Hortons. Maier says he’ll leave his ‘63 Corvette Pro Mod at home this time to concentrate on the Top Fuel car.
He says he’d like to go out with a qualifying run and a round or two.
Go get ‘em, Ike.