The fiery wreck at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday left several drivers injured and one, Dan Wheldon, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, dead at the age of 33. Wheldon leaves behind a wife and two young sons.
Lyn St. James, a former Indy driver and the sport's Rookie of the Year in 1992, says the crash was the result of "a perfect storm."
When asked on "The Early Show" about that comment to CNN, she said, "There was no one thing that either caused it or created it. It was just this multiple number of things that, if it had not all come together, I don't think it would have had that result. ...You (had a) one-and-a-half-mile track with 34 cars on it, which we run 33 at Indy, but we also run that at a two-and-a-half mile track. ... Las Vegas is very wide and has high banking. ... You add the down force that we have ... and you're able to sustain that speed and build momentum. The fact (that) they run three-or four-wide and then the domino effect when the track basically
"Early Show" co-anchor Jeff Glor pressed St. James on the number of drivers in the race -- were there just too many?
"I don't think there were too many," St. James said. "I think also that the high focus on the promotion and you take, you know, of a $5 million bonus and you put somebody who is a capable driver that had to start at the back and he's a hard-charging champion. We get in the cars and drive them to the absolute maximum. At those speeds, with that number of cars, you don't have the time to react but, at the same time, you know, I think that additional element I think added to the perfect storm."
Wheldon, St. James said, will be remembered as an ambitious, unique champion.
"He had a lot of dreams, a lot of vision and a lot of passion for what he wanted to yet to accomplish, but at least he was able to accomplish some of those by winning Indy twice and winning championships and being the great person that he was," she said. "So I've never seen such an outpouring from every level of the sport in such a short amount of time and I think, I hope his family appreciates that. It's going to be very hard, the grieving of his wife, his parents, his children. I think that is where the real sensitivity is. At least he went out as a champion and he was able to achieve some of his dreams. Not everybody gets to do that."