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In his NASCAR video conference this last Tuesday, Tony Stewart was asked about the danger involved with racing. One of the many things he said was “It really boils down to the basics of, it’s auto racing. Auto racing, football, hockey, they are all dangerous sports. But we all love to do it and the fans love to watch it.” As racing fans struggle to make sense of the recent deaths of racers Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli due to injuries sustained in on track incidents, it only makes sense that we, as fans,  reflect on what we know and love about our sport as well as the level of danger and risk our favorite drivers deal with every time they race. These are the words of  fellow Tony Stewart fan, MaryAnn Holtz, who agreed to share her thoughts with us here on BadGroove.com. Thanks MaryAnn— Amy

In the days following the horrific accident that took Dan Wheldon’s life, Tony Stewart has been true to his character by answering question after question honestly and thoughtfully.  In short, saying racing is racing…drivers need to be responsible for what takes place behind the wheel…racing is safer than ever but there will always be an element of danger….

Now, we have all heard that Tony’s boyhood dream was to compete in the Indianapolis 500.  But younger fans or NASCAR aficionados that didn’t follow Indy may not realize just how early in his IRL career Smoke was faced with the ultimate dangers of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In May 1996, rookie driver Stewart qualified second alongside his teammate Scott Brayton for Team Menard.  The elder, experienced, successful Brayton and the smiling Rushville Rocket were thrilled to be taking on the famed 2 ½ miles they loved so much – at over 230 miles an hour!

Suddenly, during a Friday practice, a flat tire put Brayton’s backup car into the Turn 2 wall and he was gone.  The young rookie’s friend, mentor, and teammate was…gone.  Tony was moved to the pole position; fulfilling a lifelong dream; bringing him instant fame; and facing a roller coaster of emotions, I imagine.

A few short years later, while running the 2001 NASCAR’s Daytona 500, Smoke’s Home Depot #20 became airborne and flipped several times.  Tony was being examined at the hospital and had no idea what had occurred on Turn 4 at the end of the race.  Another driver was brought in – it was Dale, Sr. and it was bad, very bad.  Smoke called his mom and asked her to pray for Dale.  Another friend and mentor lost to the sport he loves.

So when asked if racing is dangerous, I expect the owner/driver of #14 would answer “Sure, always has been, always will be.”  But then that’s why racers race and why fans love to watch them.  To quote a fan on Twitter the night of Dan’s passing, “Sometimes we hate the sport we love so much.”  And so we go on to cheer for our favorite driver as they tighten up those belts one more time and race on to the next checkered flag.
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For more on the events of the 2001 Daytona 500, read this insightfully honest interview with Tony by Holly Cain, from AOLNews.com, Feb. 9, 2011.

MaryAnn Holtz can be found on twitter: @AzSmoke14fan

(This was written on Saturday afternoon and meant to be posted then but BadGroove was down- so I am posting it on Monday.  If you are looking for my race report/first (and probably only) attempt at live blogging go here).

I get sick and it seems everything goes to hell in a handbasket.  This illness started not last week but the week before with a simple case of a scratchy throat that evolved into a mild cold. It really wasn’t that bad as far as colds go- and by midday last saturday I was feeling much better. Sunday I felt back to my old self and spent much of the day pumpkin patch hopping.  On Monday of this week,  my throat got scratchy again. By Tuesday, I felt like a truck had hit me. By Wednesday I was wishing a truck would hit me and put me out of my misery. And now here it is Saturday- I am feeling a little better (but still not 100%- more like 75%). I have a ton stuff rolling around in my head to blog about and now- the website is having some sort of problem and I can’t get to it. ARG! So here are a bunch of things that have been rolling around my head along with all the congestion and headache:

  1. This morning I watched about 5 minutes of qualifying for Talladega. Seriously only 5 minutes and during that 5 minutes- Regan Smith qualified. And the people in the booth went on and on about how Regan Smith was a winner at Talladega even if the record books say he wasn’t.  MY GOD PEOPLE.  That was in 2008! LET IT GO! He advanced under the yellow line.  Yes I am a Stewart fan but a rule is a rule. HE ADVANCED UNDER THE DOUBLE YELLOW LINE…not allowed. SO Regan Smith DID NOT win at Talladega. Regan DID NOT WIN. So sorry to burst your little commentator bubbles. AGAIN: LET IT GO- the past is in the past and can’t be changed. Let’s talk about the future!
  2. DirecTV is apparently dropping SpeedTV from it’s line up as of November 1st. If they truly do this? I guess we will have to consider U-Verse or something. Sigh.  I hate how DTV seems to think it’s perfectly fine- when negotiating with stations the piss us fans off by threatening us to take away stations. Last  year it was Versus. This year it’s Speed. Next year it will be something else. Speed is probably one of THE most watched channels in our household- and not just because of NASCAr.
  3. Jeff Gordon reaches 85 wins and because of that part of the 85 has been named the Jeff Gordon Expressway. Does that mean when he gets win number 86 that he will get that taken away from him?
  4. David Gilliland has told Tony Stewart that he will not be able to be his dancing partner at Talladega at the dance race. Why? He is under orders from his manufacturer not to help Chevy. REALLY Ford? You want to be like that? Real mature. They made a good partnership before. Well I guess we will find out who Tony will partner with…but I think it’s really kind of crappy of Ford to do that.
  5. I read on twitter on Friday that the Dan Wheldon Lionheart tribute stickers are NOT going to be available to fans. I think that NASCAR is really missing a chance to help the family of Dan Wheldon- many fans would purchase them and NASCAR could donate the proceeds to the Wheldon Family trust.
  6. Speaking of the Wheldon Family Trust- if you have twitter you can follow @DWheldonAuction for information on the great items going to up for auction to benefit Dan Wheldon’s children.

Dan Wheldon

Posted by Amy in General - (0 Comments)

I hate being at a loss for words, but I am.  As I tweeted on Sunday, I was sad to find out about the passing of driver Dan Wheldon.  I had not witnessed it- I was out scouring the county looking for that perfect pumpkin with nephews and my brother and sister-in-law and our parents. I got a text between pumpkin patches from Misty asking me if I was watching the Indy car car race.  I knew the cars were in Vegas for their finale this weekend.  She offhandedly mentioned that Danica Patrick was doing an autograph appearance at a nearby 7-11 and asked if i wanted her to get me an autograph.  I replied that I would rather have Dan Wheldon’s.   Anyway- I texted her back immediate with: NO IS THE RACE GOOD? A few minutes later I got a phone call from her that there had been an horrendous accident…multiple airborne cars…Dan Wheldon was being airlifted to UMC.  Misty wasn’t home but was about to be and told me she would let me know what was going on.  I soon got more details through text from her…red flag, media being dispatched to UMC for updates…then she texted me and said the race was still red flagged and they called the drivers into some meeting.  It was then that my heart sunk to my stomach.  I wasn’t surprised when her next text told me Dan didn’t make it.

There are lots of heartwarming tributes to Dan Wheldon out there- and I honestly feel that I can’t really add much to that.  See while I was a huge fan of Indy cars back in the early 90′s, I had honestly wandered away from the sport about the time CART was split…and it never really got my full attention again as some of my favorite drivers went to IRL some to CHAMP and I was left wondering which to watch…eventually turning back to NASCAR as my favorite motorsport when they stopped running Indy cars at my locak track (Laguna Seca- now Mazda Raceway). My only real connection to Dan Wheldon was watching him win both his Indy 500 races (you can take IRL away from the girl but she will still watch the Indy 500) on TV and then earlier this summer I got to see the actual car he won the Indy 500 in on display at the Ronald Reagan Library:

My favorite part of the racing exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Library- Dan Wheldon's INDY 500 winning car! I haven't been this close to an IRL car since before there was IRL! (Photo Credit: Amy Marbach)

A death from an on-track incident in any form of motorsports is a scary event to racing fans no matter what your preferred form of motorsports be.  It’s scary because it makes the fact that this sport we love to watch is inherently dangerous just a little more tangible.  It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of open wheel indy cars doing 200+ mph, or 3800 lb stock cars going around in circles, or top fuel funny cars dashing down the quarter mile or motogp bikes…things can go terribly wrong terribly fast.  Immediately after I heard of Dan Wheldon’s death, my brain would keep flashing back to something Tony Stewart said – sometime around his birthday I believe.  I don’t remember the exact context of the quote- but he said something to the effect of “As it is, I have always thought I am living on borrowed time.” At the time I rolled my eyes  and thought to myself that Tony was being a bit over-dramatic about his 40th birthday but Dan Wheldon’s tragic accident at Las Vegas Motor Speedway makes those words a little more real…a little more stinging.

That being said…there is a Dan Wheldon memorial page with lots of information and pictures posted about Dan as well as a place for fans to leave messages of condolences.  The most recent news is that there will be a public memorial at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN on October 23rd at 4:00 PM.

There is a trust being set up for the Wheldon family…monetary donations:

Fifth Third Private Bank
Attn: Dan Wheldon Family Trust
251 North Illinois St.
Suite 1000
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Fans who were in attendance at the race can request refunds (info available here)…there is a big online movement for fans requested refunds to donate their refunds to the trust listed above.

There is also word of a gokart race at Pole Position Raceway in Las Vegas on Arville (near Flamingo) on November 6th. Tickets are $60.00 with a portion of the proceeds going to the trust set up for Dan’s children.

What was with the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600?  In both races the drivers leading the last lap did NOT get the checker flag and in BOTH races those drivers happened to be driving National Guard sponsored cars. Talk about heartache. (more…)