IndyCar Series won’t return to Las Vegas in 2012
Wheldon, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, was killed in the opening laps of the Oct. 16 season finale at Las Vegas. The investigation into the 15-car fatal accident is ongoing, and IndyCar has postponed releasing its 2012 schedule until it determines if the series can continue racing on high-banked ovals such as Las Vegas.
Speedway Motorsports Inc. owner Bruton Smith was adamant he wanted IndyCar to honor the three-year lease deal it has with Las Vegas, but IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard had been reluctant to return to the speedway.
“We’re not guaranteeing we’ll be back,” Bernard said. “But we’ll test there, and we’ll see what we can learn.”
No matter the results, concerns remain about the emotional issues the series would face upon returning to Las Vegas.
Wheldon was killed 12 laps into the season finale in a fiery 15-car accident. Critics have pointed to everything from the 34-car field, the size and speed of the track, the speedway’s high banking and the varying experience level of the drivers as reasons for the accident.
Wheldon was entered as part of a promotion that would have paid him $5 million if he could have driven from the back of the field to Victory Lane. It was all part of a season-ending spectacular aimed to boost television ratings and send IndyCar into 2012 with some momentum. Instead, it turned terribly wrong minutes into the race, and IndyCar has been struggling with difficult decisions and a tumultuous offseason in the seven weeks since.
“We believe it’s in everyone’s best interest to give the experts at IndyCar as much time as possible to compile their findings and conduct tests with the new car here at the speedway before we host another IndyCar event. We are very hopeful that the Indy Cars will return to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2013.”
With Las Vegas settled, for now, attention now turns to Texas Motor Speedway.
The high-banked oval is one of the most popular venues in the series and has hosted IndyCar every year since 1997. But there was no sanctioning agreement in place before Wheldon’s accident, and Bernard has been hesitant to complete a deal until the investigation is complete.
“We don’t have a deal yet, but that’s not to say we aren’t going to get one done,” Gossage said. “Certainly we’d like to get this wrapped up, and I believe we’ll be able to find a way to do just that.”