Wheldon, 33, one of the sport’s most popular figures was critically injured when his car flew over another and slammed into the barrier fence early Sunday morning.
The accident appeared to start when young New Zealand driver Wade Cunningham’s car swerved on the track to avoid a wayward vehicle and JR Hildebrand drove over the left rear of Cunningham’s car. Hildebrand appeared to go airborne, and Cunningham’s car shot up into the wall, setting off a chain reaction among the cars behind him.
Wheldon was airlifted from the Las Vegas track at 1.20pm and taken to University Medical Center, becoming the first IndyCar driver to die on the track since rookie Paul Dana was killed in practice on the morning of race day at Homestead Miami Speedway in 2006.
There had been concern about the high speeds at the track, where they were hitting nearly 225 mph during practice. Prior to the event drivers had criticised the track as being unsuitable for Indy racing.
He was competing in only his third IndyCar race of the season, trying to win the race and earn a $5 million bonus that was part of a league promotion for drivers who didn’t compete full-time in the series this year. Wheldon was the only driver to accept the challenge. He came to the United States from England in 1999, won 16 times in his IndyCar career and was the series champion in 2005.