Archive for Monday, March 27, 2006

Driver Dana dies in pre-race crash

Rookie slams into Carpenter’s car before IRL opener

March 27, 2006

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— Rookie driver Paul Dana was killed in a pre-race practice crash Sunday before the Indy Racing League season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He was 30.

Dana slammed into a car driven by Ed Carpenter at roughly 200 mph after Carpenter had spun high in Turn 2, slid down the banking and nearly come to a stop.

Both were airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where Dana was pronounced dead shortly before noon. Carpenter was listed in stable condition.

Dana and Carpenter were warming up for the Toyota Indy 300, which was run as scheduled on the 1.5-mile oval track after the crowd observed a moment of silence.

Reigning IRL champion Dan Wheldon won the race in a riveting finish, edging Helio Castroneves by a nose after they raced side-by-side for several laps.

But Dana's car owner, the Rahal Letterman Racing team of racing legend Bobby Rahal and TV host David Letterman, withdrew the two cars driven by Dana's teammates - Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice - before the race started.

"It is a very black day for us, and on behalf of our entire team, our prayers and sympathy go out to the entire Dana family," Rahal said.

Wheldon placed Dana's number, 17, on the side of his car before the race began, then offered condolences as soon as he reached victory lane.

Dana, a St. Louis native who lived in Indianapolis, was the third driver to die in the 10-year history of the IRL and the first since Tony Renna was killed in a crash during testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October 2003. Scott Brayton died in a practice crash at Indianapolis in May 1996.

Dana ran three races last year for Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing - including a 10th-place finish at Homestead-Miami - but suffered a season-ending back injury in May during practice for the Indianapolis 500. He joined Rahal Letterman this year, a move he called "a dream come true."

Dana's accident occurred minutes after morning practice began, and it was not immediately clear why Dana was unable to avoid Carpenter, whose spin had occurred well in front of Dana and had triggered the yellow caution lights. Carpenter is the stepson of Tony George, the IRL's founder and president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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