Saturday, October 29, 2011

Open-Wheel Racing Safety

It's been almost two weeks now since the tragedy at Las Vegas. It's time to move from a period of mourning to a period of planning for the future. It's time to examine the safety of open-wheel racing and determine what needs to be done so that we don't have to go through this again any time soon. It's happened too often, and it's too much on the drivers, families, and fans.

So now it's time for the 3SN debate. Ryan and I have been big auto racing fans for years. Ryan grew up in F1, myself with IndyCar. This year, we made a point of emphasis to start following each others' series. Up through September, we've had many stories to share, issues to critique, and exciting new aspects of racing we had never seen before and loved. Now, after a terrible end to the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series, our differing racing backgrounds provides a unique range of opinions regarding the safety of racing.

These are just our opinions, and we'd love to hear yours as well! What do other racing fans (and non-racing fans alike) believe regarding the safety of the drivers?

Is it reasonable to blame IndyCar for the death of Dan Wheldon?

Ryan: I’m prepared to take some considerable flak for this, but I do believe IndyCar can be blamed for Dan Wheldon’s death. I won’t expound too much on it here, because my answers to subsequent questions more thoroughly address the matter, but I will briefly mention that the sport’s governing body and management are responsible for whatever happens on the track. Decisions have consequences and Wheldon’s accident, while highly regrettable, was not just a senseless tragedy – its cause was rooted in institutional failures and lack of what is commonly termed a “safety culture.”

James: This one I can see both ways. Are accidents going to happen? Of course. Will some of them be fatal? Yes, that’s the sport. No matter how disappointing it is to say this, you’re going to get freak crashes which will end tragically. (And on a side note, this is NOT just racing…there are tragedies in just about every sport out there. Maybe not all are fatalities, but it’s a sad and tragic day when somebody ends up out for the year or having a neck injury threatening paralysis, nevertheless losing a life. Football, hockey, boxing, horse racing, and auto racing have all had these.) Sports, yes ALL sports, are dangerous. The racers have all come out and said that. They know it, they accept it.
BUT, that being said, the decisions made by IndyCar this year have been questionable to say the least. It started in New Hampshire, where Brian Barnhart didn’t listen to the drivers when it started to sprinkle lightly. The result: five cars spin out before the green flag waves. (At least they got it right and voided that restart) But then, in Vegas they decide to start 34 racers? Remember, the 2.5 mile oval of Indianapolis Motor Speedway only races 33 cars, first instituted back in the late 1910s / early 1920s as a safety limit. The number of cars was limited based on the size of the track. So now we’re saying that it’s safe to have MORE cars on a SMALLER track? The drivers (again) knew that it wasn’t going to be safe and voiced their displeasure. Did Barnhart and IndyCar listen? No.

With all of the safety features and innovations and precautions over the years, what conclusion do you draw regarding open-wheel racing? Is it just too dangerous? Does more have to be done? by drivers, teams, officials?

Ryan: Well first, when dealing with a matter this specific within motorsport, it’s probably best not to broadly categorize because it’s going to get us in to trouble with generalized assertions. Open-wheel racing refers to a plethora of separate, distinctive sports – including but certainly not limited to Formula Ford, Formula Renault, Formula BMW, F3000, F3, F2, GP3, GP2, and of course, IndyCar and Formula 1. Thus when a question is proposed in such broad terms, a concise answer is impossible to provide.
The only generalization I can offer that might suffice is that open-wheel racing (all categories) seems to be safer than it used to be. All professional series now feature proper head protection, a simple precaution that we now take for granted. The HANS device or a derivative thereof is now standard. Trackside medical staff is better trained and marshals more numerous than in years past. However, these rules apply as much to other categories of motorsport as they do specifically to open-wheel racing.

Honestly, I'm not quite sure how anyone lived through the 1950s. Watch Herrmann simply get up and walk away.

James: There used to be fatalities annually. YouTube “Indy 500 fatalities” and you’ll find a bunch of in-race crashes from the 60s that were fatal. The cars are safer, disintegrating upon impact with the wall to disperse energy away from the driver. The barriers are safer, with now every major speedway in the country having the SAFER barrier (created by IndyCar in 2003 after the death of Tony Renna). The safety crews are second-to-none (they get a flipped car back right-side-up less than 60 seconds after it hits the wall). Again, it’s dangerous, and everybody knows it. Drivers, teams, engineers, and officials are always looking for ways to increase safety while not decreasing excitement too much. It’s a fine line, one that people will probably say needs to be crossed after October 16th.

Start this video at about 6:15 to see the speed of the safety crews

Honestly, would there be this big of a response if it was a no-named rookie "wanna-be" driver and not Dan Wheldon, a two-time Indy 500 winner and former IndyCar Series champ?

Ryan: I honestly feel that the status within the sport of the driver in question should not (and realistically does not) have any bearing on the legitimacy of criticism regarding the safety of that sport. The circumstances of his death carry far more weight.
The tragic death of Roland Ratzenberger in 1994 meant no less because he drove for the hopelessly uncompetitive Simtek racing team, nor because Imola was only his third race in Formula 1. He died because the sport was fundamentally unsafe. Three-time World Driver’s Champion Ayrton Senna was claimed that same weekend for the same reason. Paul Dana was fatally injured in a crash in 2006 at Homestead-Miami Speedway not because he was a rookie (though it was a contributing factor) but because racing at 200+ MPH in a circle is extraordinarily dangerous. A myriad of inexperienced pay drivers have frequented Formula 1’s lower tier for decades without incident. In fact, the most alarming accidents in recent memory have involved seasoned veterans Felipe Massa (2009) and Robert Kubica (2007).
Established racing series must walk a narrow line of maintaining a safe racing environment, but also not discouraging new talent or the entire upwardly-mobile infrastructure of feeder series becomes superfluous. Dan Wheldon’s tragic loss seems to have a greater impact only because of the graphic nature of the crash, the effect it had of truncating the 2011 season, and the fact that it is the latest in a seemingly unstoppable sequence of fatalities in American upper-division open wheel racing (Cart and IndyCar).

James: There shouldn’t be a difference. But sadly I think there is. I look back to the 2006 death of Paul Dana before the first race of the season. Dana was a rookie, racing in three IndyCar Series races in the previous season. He was inexperienced, and honestly not a very good racer. He had a sponsorship and had enough talent to make it to the big show, but I’m sorry, he wasn’t the greatest racer at all. After his death, the general reaction I saw from message boards online and from ESPN was far from sympathetic. Many comments were something similar to the following: “He never should have been in a race car. He had plenty of time to slow down, should have known better. It’s a miracle he didn’t kill Ed Carpenter.” No remorse, just disappointment that he was ever in the car.
Now with Wheldon’s passing, a respected and well-known superstar of the sport, not only is IndyCar getting attention on SportsCenter for the first time since Wheldon won the Indy 500 four months earlier, but the entire racing community is joining together. Graham Rahal stated he was going to auction off his helmet to raise money, and now as of October 28th, there are 70 items up for auction on eBay, with all proceeds going to a trust fund for Wheldon’s children, some items of which are over $10,000 with almost a week to go. We wouldn’t see this if Wheldon wasn’t so talented, well-liked, and well-respected. (Click HERE to check out the auction!)

Are ovals too dangerous for racing?

Ryan: The answer to this question really depends on the priority one places on drivers’ safety. If one blithely justifies away fatalities with such hollow truisms as “racing is dangerous,” then not at all. As ovals are currently constructed, considering the speeds reached and the nature of design of IndyCars, and assuming fans don’t want to witness a repeat of Las Vegas every five years, then ovals are absolutely unsafe for racing. As much as I loathe watching NASCAR, it has found an all-encompassing package (chassis design, medical and emergency crew organization, and general event planning and conduct guidelines) that work for oval racing and consequently, the last Sprint Cup/Winston Cup fatality was Dale Earnhardt in 2001.
If IndyCar wishes to race ovals, it must develop a formula which preserves the spectacle and intensity its fans desire but which also places a greater focus on driver protection. IndyCar is a uniquely fast category of racing that would benefit from having custom-built racing facilities. I propose locating fans in the infield in stands facing outward toward the banking. Not only is this a more optimal viewing arrangement, but the catch fencing on the outside of the track could be redesigned to give more during an accident, dispersing energy without shredding vehicles, and it would not compromise spectator safety. If IndyCar continues to race existent circuits, however, they must minimize the amount of cars on track at any one time.

James: Cars can’t get much faster, or else my answer would be “yes” for sure. Oval racing is too popular in the United States to get rid of it, and in my mind the only way that oval racing (or racing in general) can be fully “safe” is to not race. The most dangerous part of open-wheel racing is when cars get side-by-side, as that’s when wheels can touch and cars head to the wall. That’s how the 15-car crash began, with two cars side-by-side making slight contact. Courses like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have corners that are just too flat and too narrow for cars to go side-by-side through the turn at full speed. The worst in-race crash at Indy was in 2010 where Mike Conway tried to go side-by-side with Ryan Hunter-Reay into turn three, and that was only because Hunter-Reay ran out of fuel and was running so slowly. Wheels touched, and Conway ended up in the catch fence just like Wheldon did 16 months later.
And even as such, the Vegas crash that claimed Wheldon’s life was a fluke. Well, the CRASH wasn’t, but the RESULT was. Wheldon went airborne, and landed on top of another car. He would’ve run into the SAFER barrier if he hadn’t unluckily landed on E.J. Viso’s car. Instead, he was “carried” toward the wall at a height OVER the wall and straight into the catch fence. And he just hit the fence the wrong way. Can catch fences be fixed? Ryan has the right answer there. But you’re sacrificing spectator safety for driver safety. That’s another fine line…

What sort of safety features still need to be instituted for open-wheel racing to be truly "safe" ?

Ryan: I cannot over-emphasize the importance of wheel tethers. Every open-wheel series has seen crashes where wheels are severed and careen haphazardly down the track. Henry Surtees was killed in July of ’09 at Brands Hatch when an errant wheel from an off-track competitor wandered, bouncing back onto the racing line and struck Surtees in the head, killing him instantly. Sebastien Buemi suffered a frightening run-off at China’s Shanghai International Circuit in 2010 while braking into T14. A front wishbone failed, instantly transferring the aero loading to the opposite side which also catastrophically failed. As a result, both wheels separated from the car nearly simultaneously and continued rolling ahead of the car, eventually bouncing up over the barrier and off the track.

Though F1 has wheel tethers, they don’t seem to work nearly as reliably as IndyCar’s implementation. To be fair, I also have to commend IndyCar on their tethering of the entire rear wing assembly to the chassis. Throughout the entire 2011 season, I have not witnessed a single incidence of this system not working as intended.

James: Honestly, the safety issues to me come when the cars are so alike. The Dallara chassis is the same one used from 2003, so eight years of teams perfecting the car to its maximum potential. The result, cars are just too close together, cannot separate themselves from the pack. The result: a NASCAR race. Stock cars can run together more safely because of their weight and terrible aerodynamic properties. They’re not going to fly into the air like planes if their wheels touch. There’s an exponentially greater margin of error in stock cars, it could almost be considered high-speed bumper cars. IndyCars and F1 cars can’t touch without heading into the wall.
So, for the safety features these cars need…supposedly the new IndyCar chassis is already designed with a safety-first mentality. The most noticeable new safety feature is the back wheel guard. Until I can see the new chassis in action, I cannot properly comment on “new” safety features for the car.

Formula One hasn't had a fatality since 1994, NASCAR since 2001. Why has IndyCar lost three since that time (Renna in '03 testing, Dana in '06, Wheldon in '11)?

Ryan: Formula 1 has not lost a driver since 1994. Between 1994 and 2011, IndyCar has suffered four driver fatalities and the now-defunct CART accounted for another three. F1 is the safest motorsport in the world because of a paranoid obsession with safety and (frankly) some luck. Following the tragedy at Imola in 1994, the focus of the sport shifted to a compromise between performance and safety (with an emphasis on the latter) rather than an all-out quest for speed and racing spectacle. Tracks were reevaluated on the grounds of whether they possessed adequate protection for drivers and fans and some venues were permanently, preemptively altered. The common turn of phrase “don’t fix it if it isn’t broken” is anathema to Formula 1 personnel; radical action is frequently taken even when catastrophe is narrowly averted.
F1 helmets now feature a carbon fiber reinforcement strip in the visor in reaction to an incident during qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix which saw Ferrari driver Felipe Massa struck in the head by a 3 lb. heave spring off Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn chassis. In what is now considered an ignominious chapter in Formula 1 history, the US Grand Prix saw only six cars start when teams using Michelin tires refused to risk their drivers’ safety over concerns that the tires provided for the weekend would fail through the high speed banking of the final corner.

Modern F1: A Sport of Close Calls
Interlagos, Brazil 2003: Fernando Alonso missed double waved yellows and hit a tire from a previous crash. He suffered no serious injury and participated in the next race at San Marino.

Kubica's massive off at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2007. A decade ago, this crash would have been fatal. Kubica missed a single Grand Prix.

Hungary 2009: Massa's helmet (provided by Schuberth GmbH ) performed admirably, but the manufacturer improved upon the design the following race. Further refinements were made this season.

It seems to me that IndyCar is simply not adequately concerned with safety. Wheldon’s crash was not the first indication of endemic safety issues within American open-wheel racing, nor was it even the first this year. The abortive and downright shameful restart at Loudon was highly surprising in that it did not lead to any injuries. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the pit lane debacle at Kentucky, after which Panther Racing’s Erik Scheumann and K.V. Racing’s D.J. McMahon both required surgery. Considering Indy’s history of fatalities on ovals and its distinct design and performance parameters, it is perplexing how little adaptation it has exhibited in visiting tracks constructed based upon a completely different paradigm of vehicle. As long as IndyCar continues to visit tracks that are not tailored toward its specialized safety needs (cars achieving flight, speeds significantly greater than closed-cockpit series), I find it highly likely that this pattern will continue.

James: The obvious answer at first is the speed. With half of the season being on ovals, the IndyCar speed will lead to more crashes, especially more devastating crashes. All of the fatalities in IndyCar have come from on the ovals. I love IndyCar due to its high speed, high intensity, and high level of skill on ALL racing circuits. The series champion will show his great skill on short ovals, superspeedway ovals, road courses, and natural terrain street courses. So the fact that the issues come on ovals alone is the first thing to keep in mind, as F1 is road/street courses only.
The other thing we need to keep in mind is that, when crashes do occur on road/street courses, they typically are severe and scary-looking. They just don’t happen as often, so it’s tougher to critique. Those road/street course crashes look so much worse because there is no SAFER barrier. Cars are flying into a tire barrier or a concrete wall. The reason there aren’t more incidences is due to the nature of a road course, where tracks have runoff lanes designed for cars that lose their brakes. If this weren’t the case, I can say without too much exaggeration that there could be a fatality every other week. Best case in point this year is Tony Kanaan at Baltimore. His brakes failed, and if it weren’t for Helio Castroneves’s car in front of him, I’m afraid we might have two fatalities to deal with in IndyCar this year. The temporary street circuit had a mini runoff, but even after heavy contact with Helio’s car, Kanaan still went flying into and through the tire barrier in turn one.
So, long story short, ovals will breed more devastating crashes due to higher speeds and lack of runoff areas. Still, the nature of each track is so unique that you’re comparing apples and oranges…again, the great thing about IndyCar.

Will the new chassis design help IndyCar at all in terms of safety?

Ryan: To some extent it must. The bodywork/crash structure enclosing the rear wheels of the DW12 represent the first of the painful compromises IndyCar needs to make. Eventually, however, the series must reconcile a very basic issue: if it is going to race two drastically disparate kinds of tracks, it must have two equally different cars. What will be safe on a road course will never be safe on an oval and vice versa – and bodykits won’t cut it. The oval iteration must have a stronger roll-structure to protect the driver and a stronger fuel cell; essentially, everything must be over-engineered.

Wheldon's chassis post-crash: The upper crash structure is completely absent, having failed upon impact with the catch fencing. A reinforced dorsal/intake region would have prevented a driver fatality.

IndyCar is currently obsessed with mitigating costs of competing, and considering attendance isn’t what they’d like it to be, I can understand – two completely different chassis standards seems unsustainable in the sport’s current economic reality. Regardless, teams and management are going to have to decide which is more important: driver safety or marginalizing costs.

James: First, I must say I agree with Ryan and we need to name the new chassis the DW12 for all the work Dan has done for the series.
And again, I’ll get back to you on this question once I see the new chassis in action. The whole design was created for safety, especially with the in-cockpit safety. The only issue here is that Wheldon’s death was due to the way the open cockpit hit the fence. That cannot be fixed by adjusting the car. However, with the added downforce that the new cars supposedly will feature, combined with the rear wheel “fender” if you will, the likelihood of cars going airborne like Wheldon’s did is decreased significantly.

Final words:

Ryan: Don't get the wrong idea from the accusatory tone of my responses - accountability is viewed differently in F1. I am only giving my opinion, as always. Whatever IndyCar decides to do is their business, and nothing we can say will bring Dan back (unfortunately).

James: All we can do now is to wait and see. IndyCar has done everything correctly in the last two weeks. We've waited our time to let things settle and analyze all aspects of motorsports safety. We are by no means safety experts, but this is how we view everything from the fans' perspective. No matter what, it's going to be insanely tough to go to the track next year, sit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where I watched with a smile on my face the previous year as Dan Wheldon took his emotional victory lap around the Brickyard, now to watch with a heavy heart knowing that the Lionheart is unable to defend his crown.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Week 8 Fantasy Football Advice

Who to start and who to sit? And who to pick up with all of these bye weeks? 3SN has the answers! Broadcast live on ESPN Radio 1240 WBBW.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Week 9 College Football Predictions

The top two teams may be off this week, but there are still great games on the schedule, including an 8-9 and an 11-14 matchup (wow, sounds like the NCAA basketball tournament...maybe football should have a playoff, wait, we're not going to get started on this topic again....) KState tries to give Oklahoma their second consecutive loss, while Michigan State has to forget about their amazing finish to knock off Wisconsin last week, traveling down to Husker-land.

We haven't included the Pitt/UConn game for this week, honestly we aren't sure if this game qualifies under this week or the previous one.  Pitt just got a tough break, though, as Ray Graham looks severely injured with a right knee issue. Hopefully we'll see him again, whether it be this year or having to wait until 2012. Sunseri apparently only plays well on these unique Wednesday/Thursday/Friday night games...good thing Pitt has two or three annually. Dot says Pitt 31-18, Dellav says Pitt 24-20. Final was Pitt 35-20. Sunseri threw for over 400 yards, are you kidding me!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Baylor (4-2) at 3 Oklahoma State (7-0)
If you like high scoring offense, this is the game for you. Robert Griffin III takes his Baylor Bears' sixth ranked scoring offense to visit the Cowboys, undefeated and boasting the second best scoring offense in the land.  Oklahoma State begins a tough stretch, featuring Kansas State and Texas A&M after this week's matchup with Baylor. But they control their destiny, and with Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon, it will be difficult to beat the Cowboys at home.  But that's just what Baylor always seems to do: win the games they're not supposed to win.
Dot's Pick:  Oklahoma State 48-42            Dellav's Pick:            Final:
5 Clemson (8-0) at Georgia Tech (6-2)
GT was a top 10-15 team just two weeks ago, the top scoring offense in the country just three weeks ago. Now they cannot score (averaging just over 14 points over their last three games) and have two ugly losses on the road. Their reward: hosting the scoring machine of Clemson. NC put points on Clemson last week, can GT do the same and play BCS-buster?
Dot's Pick:  Georgia Tech 31-28            Dellav's Pick:             Final:
6 Stanford (7-0) at USC (6-1)
How is USC not ranked? They're playing great football, Barkley is making all of the throws, and the fact that they are bowl-ineligible might cause BCS-chaos if they keep winning.  Can Heisman front-runner Andrew Luck (can anybody other than Stanford fans name another player on the team, or even the coach now that Harbaugh is gone?'s the Stanford Lucks) go to the Coliseum and stay undefeated?
Dot's Pick:  Stanford 38-21            Dellav's Pick:            Final:

Washington State (3-4) at 7 Oregon (6-1)
LeMichael James might as well continue to rest and get healthy, because he will not be needed for this game against the Cougars.
Dot's Pick:  Ugly Uniforms 43-15            Dellav's Pick:            Final: 

9 Oklahoma (6-1) at 8 Kansas State (7-0)
Can you believe the rotten luck of the Sooners? After getting embarrassed by Texas Tech at home last week, Oklahoma now has to travel to K-State, one of the two remaining undefeated teams in the Big XII.  Can you believe the rotten luck of K-State? Next four games: vs. Okla, at Okla St, vs. A&M, at Texas.  The 'Cats certainly won't be looking ahead, but even so, can they beat an emotional Sooners team looking to make up for last week's ugly outcome? K-State just gets the job done, especially with big plays on defense and special teams. But again, making up for a big loss will make this game interesting.
Dot's Pick:  Kansas State 31-21            Dellav's Pick:            Final:

10 Arkansas (6-1) at Vanderbilt (4-3)
Arkansas on the road this year so far: Loss to Alabama, win (neutral site) vs. A&M after playing terribly most of the game, ugly win at Mississippi when trailing most of the game. These facts alone make traveling to Vanderbilt an interesting possibility all of a sudden...
Dot's Pick:  Arkansas 30-21          Dellav's Pick:            Final: 

11 Michigan State (6-1) at 14 Nebraska (6-1)
Kirk Cousins to Keith's not exactly Flutie to Phelan, but 10 years from now something tells me we'll still be talking about that Hail Mary. Thank you, instant replay, for getting the call correct. Hopefully Sparty is not like us here at 3SN, reminiscing on last week when they should be focusing on this week at Nebraska, because it won't be a game if they are. Nebraska's offense with Taylor Martinez is supposed to score an insane number of points, but look at how MSU has tamed Denard Robinson and Russell Wilson the past two weeks (ignore the stats...look at how uncomfortable Wilson is, and the fact that there were at least three intentional grounding plays, of which only one was called). Nebraska has played only one team with a half-decent defense: Wisconsin. Result: only 17 points. Result: loss.
Dot's Pick:  Michigan State 31-17            Dellav's Pick:            Final:

12 Virginia Tech (7-1) at Duke (3-4)
Hokies aren't playing well lately, but they're not playing basketball so they shouldn't have to worry about the Dukies, even if they are playing at Cameron Indoor...oops I mean Wallace Wade Stadium
Dot's Pick:  Virginia Tech 35-6            Dellav's Pick:            Final: 

13 South Carolina (6-1) at Tennessee (3-4)
The Vols are 0-4 in the SEC, and even without Marcus Lattimore the Gamecocks are a sure-fire favorite. They still have Alshon Jeffery and the Ol' Ball Coach.
Dot's Pick:  South Carolina 27-11            Dellav's Pick:            Final: 

15 Wisconsin (6-1) at Ohio State (4-3)
The Badgers need to get over their Hail Mary loss in East Lansing in a hurry, because they now travel to Columbus, where Luke Fickell and the Buckeyes are out for blood after their loss in Madison in 2010.  The Buckeyes aren't scoring very much, but their defense is playing as well as any Jim Tressel team has. After Wilson struggled against Sparty, Badger fans are hoping they won't be saying "Et tu, Brutus?"
Dot's Pick:  Ohio State 20-14            Dellav's Pick:            Final: 

Missouri (3-4) at 16 Texas A&M (5-2)
Missouri's high scoring offense travels to Aggie country to face the 13th best offense in the country. Even more impressive is the balance for A&M, averaging 292 yards in the air and 230 on the ground every game.
Dot's Pick:  Texas A&M 31-17            Dellav's Pick:            Final: 

Rice (2-5) at 17 Houston (7-0)
Case Keenum just knows how to score points.
Dot's Pick:  Houston 47-23            Dellav's Pick: Houston 55-28            Final: 

Purdue (4-3) at 18 Michigan (6-1)
Purdue has played really well the past two weeks, including an upset win against the Illini. With the QB situation settled, the Boilers are going to be putting some teams on upset alert. Let's start immediately at the Big House, where Michigan tries to regroup after an off week following their 4th straight loss to rival Michigan State. Do Michigan's Big Ten woes continue?
Dot's Pick:  Michigan 31-30            Dellav's Pick:            Final: 

Illinois (6-2) at 19 Penn State (7-1)
The Illini have two straight losses and now travel to Happy Valley to take on Penn State. They've struggled putting points on the board, and now get to face the Nittany Lions' 5th ranked defense.  Penn State, it hasn't been pretty. But they've gotten the job done week in and week out. Matt McGloin started for the first time this year against Northwestern last week. Not only that, but Rob Bolden did not see the field once all game. So McGloin has finally won the job, right? Well, not according to JoePa and JayPa. They still claim that the two-quarterback system is still in effect. Seriously? If Penn State sticks with "double 1's" of McGloin, they'll be playing in Indianapolis. If they try to mix back in the "single 1" then JoePa won't have the option of returning for another season. Here's hoping for 11.  WEATHER ALERT: Upper 30s with a chance of precipitation...advantage Penn State.
Dot's Pick:  Penn State 24-10            Dellav's Pick:            Final: 

Iowa State (3-4) at 20 Texas Tech (5-2)
After a big week beating Oklahoma, Tech can't fall into this trap game. Iowa State, though 0-4 in conference, has had some good games just not end with a W. Tech might be looking ahead to a big rivalry game at Texas, then ending the year with Oklahoma State, Missouri, and Baylor. Careful, Red Raiders.
Dot's Pick:  Texas Tech 48-30            Dellav's Pick:            Final: 

Colorado (1-7) at 21 Arizona State (5-2)
The Buffaloes are not a good team this year, and Arizona State is quietly making a run toward the Pac-12 championship game (especially with USC ineligible, and with their cupcake remaining schedule).
Dot's Pick:  Arizona State 35-7            Dellav's Pick:            Final: 

22 Georgia (5-2) at Florida (4-3)
We haven't heard much about the Charlie Weis offense this year down in the Swamp.  Georgia has ruined a great chance to make a splash in the national picture, not playing LSU or Alabama but losing their first two games against Boise State and South Carolina. The Bulldogs have won five straight since then, but their four conference wins are anything but impressive.
Dot's Pick:  Florida 27-20            Dellav's Pick:            Final: 

Ole Miss (2-5) at 23 Auburn (5-3)
Auburn plays to the level of their opposition. Ole Miss nearly shocked the country last week against Arkansas, and has had close games all year.
Dot's Pick:  Ole Miss 24-21            Dellav's Pick:            Final: 

Kansas (2-5) at 24 Texas (4-2)
Kansas has been disappointing yet again this year, and Texas has gotten Colt McCoy back so they're going to be tough to beat. Wait, that's Case? Colt's brother? And wait, that's not Jordan Shipley? Whoa, Bevo you're confusing me!
Dot's Pick:  Texas 35-10            Dellav's Pick:            Final: 

25 West Virginia (5-2) at Rutgers (5-2)
The Mountaineers have to travel to Rutgers after an absolutely embarrassing loss up in the Carrier Dome last week to the Orange. Rutgers is solid in all aspects of the game, especially when playing at home. But this is Geno Smith's offense...a Big 12 offense...a Conf. USA offense...a MAC offense...what conference are they already?
Dot's Pick:  Rutgers 28-17            Dellav's Pick:            Final:

The Panther Chronicles: The Brawl

I will be starting a new blog series covering all things Pitt football from now until the end of the season. My series will mostly be about what's happening now in Pitt football. But, I will also be blogging about some controversial topics as well such as; Steve Pederson, Pitt Script etc. I'm sure my Co-blogger James Dotson will see this and want to do a Mount Nittany Chronicle or something so just make sure to check back to this site regularly.

The Backyard Brawl is on life support

I have been a HUGE Pitt fan since my freshman year in high school. Since then I have experienced great moments while rooting for Pitt and I also experienced some REALLY BAD ones as well. My all time favorite memory of Panthers sports is: 13-9

It was December 1st, 2007 and it was the end of my first semester of college. Golly gee was I proud to be a Panther that night. Going into the game I had ZERO faith that Pitt was going to find a way to come out victorious against the 28 point favorite and #1 ranked Mountaineers. I had been to backyard brawls before and the way Mountaineer fans came into Heinz field and harassed adults and children made me sick. Now I know every fan base has their jerks, but the Mountaineers are known around the country for having one of the rowdiest and boorish fan bases in Division I athletics. I am not afraid to say that anyone who dismisses that claim is completely foolish and ignorant. I'M NOT SAYING ALL WVU FANS ARE LIKE THIS but they have a bad national reputation for a reason.

I wonder if these fans cancelled
their trip to New Orleans after
the 13-9 debacle?

The point is the Mountaineers where one win away from the National Title game and to see my Panthers led by THE STACHE come out and beat the Mounties on national tv, on the 100th edition of the Backyard Brawl was by far the greatest Pitt moment of my life.

Dave Wannstedt was mercilessly ridiculed by Mountaineer fans after the 2005 version of the Backyard Brawl for saying in a halftime interview on national tv that all Pitt had to do was run faster to beat West Virginia. Mountaineer fans made crude Youtube videos of Wanny's interview and it was all over the internet. Very clever and mean spirited but I guess Dave Wannstedts team did in fact run faster than WVU on December 1st, 2007.

Today we all have learned the BIG XII has invited WVU into their conference. They are landing in a great situation, so good for them. I am worried though that the Backyard Brawl is going to be discontinued. It sounds as if the ACC is going to have its schools play 9 conference games per season and that leaves only 3 non-conference games for Pitt. Two them will end up being a 1AA games against team such as Youngstown State, and Butler County Community College. So the question becomes: What team will the Panthers end up playing on their open date? Some might say it will alternate between a different opponent each year, but I find that unlikely. Pitt is going to want Notre Dame or maybe even pipe-dream Penn State for that open date. I dont know how everything is going to work out. It sure seems like from all the "sources". From every major media news outlet that the backyard brawl is coming to an end.

Both schools are going to have fun trying to find a new "true" rival.   As much as I can't stand the hoopies and their fans, I LOVE when Pitt comes out victorious (which is rare) against them. The feeling of beating the hoopies is second to none and I'm not sure in fact I know that even if Pitt finds a new rival, I will not be able to get that kind of joy back. Kind of sad I know but thats the way it is. Other Pitt fans will say "But Al what about Penn State?" but lets be real here for a moment. There is no way Penn State wants to renew the rivalry with Pitt other than the home and home series 5 years from now. Even if Penn State did renew the rivalry with Pitt full time, It wouldnt be the same because I have some love in my heart for Penn State because I am a student at a local branch campus (ill be at Pitt main next semester so just chill). Does that mean im not a true Pitt fan? Probably BUT I dont care about being a "true" Pitt fan. I care about being a fan of sports in my own way.  Bottom Line: both Pitt and WVU need to find a way to keep this rivarly alive for the sake of both schools and for the sake of both fans.

For the few of you who do not understand what 13-9 meant to Pitt fans and students, please watch at least the first 2 minutes of the following video...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Week 7 Start 'Em / Sit 'Em

Every Thursday, 3SN teams up with the Ryan and Christian show on ESPN radio 1240 WBBW for a weekly fantasy football discussion for the week.

If you have any specific fantasy lineup questions, please "Ask 3SN!" a question by filling out the form on the left! We answer all fan questions because we're fans right with you, we all want some insight. You can also send us a tweet @3SNetwork with your start/sit questions!

BCS Controversy

...and it's only week 1! Four or five teams could easily finish undefeated, and yet a one-loss SEC team could easily make the title game first! We examine the first BCS rankings of the year, critique the system, and predict the rest of the year in our latest podcast.

Week 8 College Football Predictions

Every week we're breaking down the top 25 teams in college football and a couple of "at large" games. Check out our picks, and who our upset specials are! There could be a few this week, lots of possibilities! 

Do you have an upset we should be watching out for? Let us know! You get a big upset right and we'll mention you on our next post and podcast! 

20 Auburn (5-2) at 1 LSU (7-0)
Upset alert starts with #1 in the country in the battle of the Tigers. "What do Tigers dream of when they take a little tiger snooze?" Well, for those from the Bayou, apparently it's...synthetic marijuana? With three players for LSU suspended this week, including James's Heisman favorite in Tyrann Mathieu who runs the defense and special teams, the Bayou Bengals might be in trouble. They are playing Auburn, the defending national champions who should have lost week one to Utah State. Such an intriguing matchup...LSU better not be looking past Auburn for their matchup with 'Bama next week.
Dot's Pick:  Auburn 17-10            Dellav's Pick: LSU 24-17               Final: LSU 45-10
Tennessee (3-3) at 2 Alabama (7-0)
The Tide know a #1 seed in the BCS is at stake. A win this week at home almost assures them of the top spot leading into their showdown next week with LSU.
Dot's Pick:  Alabama 31-10            Dellav's Pick: Alabama 35-7            Final: Alabama 37-6
Texas Tech (4-2) at 3 Oklahoma (6-0)
Everybody knows Texas Tech scores points. They also know that they give up a lot in return, 30 per game. Everybody knows Oklahoma is a scoring machine this year. Most don't know that they're actually allowing only 15.8 points per game. Can they keep the Red Raider offense quiet? Or will we have a shootout?
Dot's Pick:  Oklahoma 55-27            Dellav's Pick: Oklahoma 37-17            Final:
4 Oklahoma State (6-0) at Missouri (3-3)
The Cowboys are being told that if they win out, they'll be assured a spot in the title game. They can't be looking ahead to matchups versus fellow undefeated Big 12 teams of Kansas State and Oklahoma. Missouri scores points, and in a shootout game this one might feature a victory for whoever has the ball last!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

NFL Trade Deadline Update

With the trade deadline just moments away, numerous moves have been made involving some big names. The most notable is Carson Palmer going to Oakland. We analyze this trade as well as the rest of the big trades in our latest podcast.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

NFL Week 6 Re-Cap

Week 6 of the NFL featured brawling coaches and some surprising plays thoughout the league...

New Orleans(20) v. Tampa Bay(26)
Tampa Bay bested the New Orleans Saints with the arm of Josh Freeman who threw for 303 yards and 2TDs. Arrelious Benn had 3 catches for 83yds and a TD while Preston Parker had 2 catches for 32yds and a TD. Earnest Graham rushed in place of injured LaGarette Blount for 109 yards. Drew Brees was 29 of 45 for 383 yds and 1TD but had 3 INTs. Marquis Colston had 7 receptions for 118yds and 1 TD and Mark Ingram rushed 9 times for 22 yds with 1TD. Coach Sean Payton broke his leg in the game when Jimmy Graham landed on him.

Dallas(16) v. New England(20)
Tom Brady threw an 8yd TD pass to Aaron Hernandez with 22 seconds left on the clock to lift the Patriots to victory. Brady was 27 of 41 for 289 yds and 2TDs with 2 INTs. Aaron Hernandez had 8 catches for 68yds and a TD. Wes Welker had 6 catches for 45yds and a TD. Benjarvus Green-Ellis had 14 carries for 58yds. Tony Romo was 27 of 41 for 317 yds and 1TD. Jason Witten had 4 catches for 48 yds and a TD while Miles Austin was 7 for 74yds and Dez Bryant was 4 catches for 78yds.

Cleveland(17) v. Oakland(24)
In an emotional game for the Raiders, the Raiders lost QB Jason Cambell for the season with a broken collarbone. Jason Cambell was knocked out of the game late in the first half when he landed hard on his shoulder after being brought down by Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong. Cambell was 6 of 9 for 52yds. Kyle Bollar was 8 for 14 for 100 yds. The lone TD pass for Oakland came from Shane Lechler on a fake field goal to Kevin Boss. Darren McFadden rushed 20 times for 91yds. Colt McCoy was 21 of 45 for 215yds and 2TDs.Alex Smith had 2 catches for 14yds and a TD while Mohamed Massaquoi had 3 catches for 30yds and a TD.

Carolina(17) v. Atlanta(31)
Michael Turner ran for 139yds & 2TDs & Matt Ryan scored a TD to help seal a victory over the Panthers. Ryan was 14 of 22 for 163 yds 1TD. Gonzalez had 3 receptions for 29yds & Ovie Mughelli had 2 catches for 20yds and the TD. Harry Douglas had 2 receptions for 57yds. Cam Newton was 21 of 35 for 237yds and a rushing TD. Jonathan Stewart who was 7 carries for 48yds posted the other Carolina TD.

Indianapolis(17) v. Cincinnati(27)
Andy Dalton held off the Colts to post a victory for the Bengals. Dalton was 25 of 32 for 264 yds and a TD. Cedric Benson had 16 carries for 57yds and a TD. Jerome Simpson had 6 receptions for 101yds while AJ Green had 5 catches for 51yds and a TD. Curtis Painter rallied the Colts but came up short. Painter had 23 of 34 for 188yds and 1 TD to Dallas Clark. Donald Brown posted the other TD for the Colts.

San Francisco(25) v. Detroit(19)
This was the game that everyone was waiting for. The perfect Detroit Lions came up short rattling Coach Shwartz and causing him to over react to a botched handshake by Coach Harbaugh at the end of the game. Alex Smith played as to not lose the game posting 17 completions out of 32 attempts for 125 yds and a TD. Frank Gore cemented the running game by rushing 15 times for 141 yds and a TD. Delanie Walker posted a TD and had 2 receptions for 11 yds. Michael Crabtree had 9 receptions for 77 yds. Matt Stafford was 28 of 50 for 293 yds and 2TDS. Brandon Pettigrew had 8 catches for 42yds and a TD while Nate Burlson had 4 catches for 34yds and a TD. Calvin Johnson had 7 receptions for 113yds.

St.Louis(3) v. Green Bay(24)
Aaron Rodgers threw for 310 yds and 3 TD passes to best the hapless Rams. Jordy Nelson had 2 receptions for 104yds and a TD while James Jones had 1 reception for 35yds and a TD. Donald Driver had 3 catches for 25 yds and a TD. Sam Bradford had 28 completions out of 44 attempts for 321yds and an INT. Steven Jackson rushed 18 times for 96yds. Danario Alexander had 6 catches for 91yds.

Buffalo(24) v. New York Giants(27)

The Giants got it done on the ground with a rushing attack by Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw had 26 carries for 104 yds and 3 TDS. Eli Manning had 21 completions out of 32 attempts for 292 yds. Manningham had 5 receptions for 56yds while Jake Ballard had 5 catches for 81yds and Hakeem Nicks had 4 catches for 96yds. Ryan Fitzpatrick had 21 completions out of 30 attempts for 244 yds and 2 TDS. Fred Jackson had 16 carries for 121 yds and a TD while Steve Johnson had 5 catches for 39yds and a TD. Naaman Roosevelt had 1 catch for 60 yds and a TD.

Jacksonville(13) v. Pittsburgh(17)
Rashard Mendenhall ran for 146yds and a TD while Ben Roethlisberger threw for 200yds and a TD to beat the Jaguars. Mike Wallace had 2 receptions for 76yds and a TD while Hines Ward finished the day with 3 catches for 47yds. Blaine Gabbert was 12 of 26 for 109yds and a TD. Jason Hill had 2 catches for 29 yds and a TD. Maurice Jones-Drew rushed 22 times for 96 yards.

Philadelphia(20) v. Washington(13)
The Eagles ended a four game losing streak by besting the Redskns. Michael Vick threw for 237yds and a TD. LeSean McCoy had 28 carries for 126yds and a TD. Brent Celek had 4 catches for 42yds and a TD. Jeremy Maclin had 5 receptions for 101yds. Rex Grossman- 9 of 22 for 143yds-started the game for the Redskins but threw 3 INTS. He was replaced by John Beck who went 8 of 15 for 117yds. Beck had a rushing TD.

Houston(14) v. Baltimore(29)

Joe Flacco threw for 305yds and ran for a score while Billy Cundiff kicked 5 Field Goals to hold off the Texans. Ray Rice had 23 carries for 101 yds. Ricky Williams had 2 carries for 8 yds and a TD. Anquan Boldin had 8 receptions for 132yds. Torry Smith had 3 catches for 84yds. MattSchaub was 21 of 37 for 220yds and a TD. Jacoby Jones had 4 catches for 76yds and a TD. Arian Foster had 15 carries for 49yds while Ben Tate had 9 carries for 41yds.

Minnesota(10) v. Chicago(39)
The once lethargic Bears put on a gutsy performance against the Vikings as they put on an arial clinic. Jay Cutler got the protection he needed as he threw for 267yds and 2TDS without an INT. Devin Hester scored on a 48yd grab and again with a 98yd kickoff return.Hester had 5 receptions for 91yds and a TD. Matt Forte had 17 carries for 87yds while Marion Barber rushed 11 times for 32yds. Donovan McNabb was 19 of 24 for 177yds. McNabb was replaced by Chritian Ponder who was 9 of 17 for 99yds. Adrian Peterson rushed 12 times for 39yds and a TD. Percy Harvin had 7 receptions for 78yds.

Miami(6) v. New York Jets(24)
Darrelle Revis ran back an interception 100 yds early on and Mark Sanchez threw a TD to Santonio Holmes and ran for a TD to beat the hapless dolphins. Sanchez went 14 of 25 for 201yds and a TD. Santonio Holmes had 3 receptions for 63yds and a TD. Shonn Green rushed 21 times for 74yds. Matt Moore had 16 completions out of 34 attempts for 204 yds. Brandon Marshall had 6 receptions for 109 yards. Reggie Bush rushed 10 times for 71 yards.

Dan Wheldon 1978-2011

This is the most painful post I have ever and probably will ever make. It's also the one I most want to write.

This post is in memory of racing great Dan Wheldon.

Today, during the final race of 2011 IndyCar Series at Las Vegas Speedway, Dan Wheldon suffered injuries as a result of a 15-car crash on lap 13. He was flown to the local hospital, and about two hours after the crash, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard made the announcement that Wheldon had passed away.

Less than five months prior, Wheldon won his second Indianapolis 500 Mile Race when rookie J.R. Hildebrand crashed on turn four of the final lap. Today, a crash tragically ends his life.



Dan Wheldon joined the IndyCar series in 2002, taking part in two races with Panther Racing. The next year, he performed amazingly in his rookie year, including a great performance at the Indy 500 before crashing late in the race, and ending the year winning Rookie of the Year. That was just a sign of things to come for the newcomer.

Two years later in 2005, Wheldon became one of the most forgotten 500 winners in history. That was the year of Danica Patrick coming into the IndyCar Series.  Dan and Danica battled back and forth over the last thirty laps, but Dan's car was just a little bit better and had just a little more fuel in it. His win was the first Indy 500 victory for his owner Michael Andretti, who could never win one as a driver. Wheldon would go on to win the IndyCar Series that year, the year in which everybody "forgot" who won the biggest race of the year.

The following season, he tied in the points standings with Sam Hornish, but lost the championship based on the tie-breaker of races won. During this time, he was offered a part-time gig with Formula One team BMW Sauber, but declined because of the lack of a consistent ride.

Wheldon's move to Target Chip Ganassi Racing led to more victories, performing solidly again in every race, including his 15th career IndyCar race win at Iowa in 2008 on his 30th birthday. That would be his last win for a long time....

The 2009 and 2010 seasons had Wheldon back with Panther Racing, where he performed best at the Brickyard like he always has.  He finished 2nd in both the 2009 and 2010 Indianapolis 500, where he was catching a fuel-saving Dario Franchitti on the final lap before the yellow flag came out due to a crash in turn three.  With many top five finishes over the two years, Wheldon finished in the top 10 in points both seasons.

2011 began with the great racer out of a job, probably due to his lack of a victory in his two seasons with Panther Racing. He joined forces with a former teammate, now team owner Bryan Herta, in a dual effort with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, to field an entry for the Indianapolis 500.  No Indy 500 race had been won by a team other than Ganassi, Penske, or Andretti since 2004 when Buddy Rice won for Rahal Letterman Racing. No IndyCar series race had been won by somebody other than the big three teams in nearly four years. Yet Wheldon did the impossible.

On the final lap, Wheldon found himself in a familiar situation: second place, a few seconds behind the leader: rookie JR Hildebrand of...Panther Racing. Coming around turn four, Hildebrand has to go high around a car out of fuel, and he gets out of the groove and hits the wall. In the chaos that followed, hardly anybody realized that Wheldon passed the crippled Hildebrand car on the front stretch before crossing the start/finish line. It was a beautiful moment for Wheldon and his former teammate, and was easy to see and hear during his victory lap in the pace car.

Even after winning the 500, Wheldon couldn't get the sponsors and couldn't secure a ride for the rest of the season. My ten-year-old niece, who absolutely loves and adores Dan, asked me why he wasn't racing after Indy. Try explaining that to a ten year old....I remember tweeting back and forth with him a few weeks after the 500, saying that my niece and I wanted to see the Indy champ back on the track soon! He responded saying that they were close and trying extremely hard to get everything in order. ...Now I have to explain to my niece why she will never get to see her favorite driver on the track ever again...

Wheldon spent four races in the Versus broadcast booth following the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, giving great driver insight that no regular color commentator could ever provide. Even though he wasn't on the track, Wheldon did provide a pivotal role in the IndyCar Series the rest of the year. As the reigning Indy 500 champ, and having no current ties to any of the teams and having no ride, Wheldon was selected to run the tests for the new 2012 chassis. He was able to provide IndyCar officials and teams with great baseline data for the next season, and now how sad it will be to go through that data for the teams.

Fast forward to the end of the season, where Wheldon has secured a ride with Sam Schmidt Motorsports for the $5 Million GoDaddy IndyCar Challenge. Starting last, if Wheldon can charge to the front of the pack and win the race at Las Vegas, he and a lucky fan get to split $5 Million.

After a test race in Kentucky in Alex Tagliani's car, Wheldon is ready for the race in Vegas. 33 other cars will join Wheldon in the race on the 1.5 mile oval, including a few inexperienced drivers. For comparison, only 33 start on the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race went really well, especially for Wheldon who had gained 10 positions in the first 12 laps before the mayhem erupted.

As the commentators are focusing on Wheldon's early march through the field, contact ahead left Wade Cunningham sideways. Cars began to slow down to try to avoid the incident, and an accordion effect was the result. 15 cars are involved in the incident, only 14 are able to walk away from it. Wheldon along with Hildebrand and one or two other cars ended up airborne when they literally ramped off the back of the car in front of them. Wheldon's car, by looks of the replay, lands on top of another car, possibly E.J. Viso's machine, and this causes a huge problem. Instead of smashing into the SAFER barrier, Wheldon's car is elevated four or five feet. He never hits the wall, but smashes into the catch fence, cockpit toward the fence.

Wheldon was transported to the infield care center, and you knew things were bad when Paul Tracy came out of the center saying that he was alright, but that there were "20 doctors around Dan." When a helicopter took off from the care center, we didn't need reports to tell us that Wheldon was on board. Ashley Judd, wife of series champion for now the third straight year Dario Franchitti, tweeted that there is "No update on Dan yet except unconscious but vitals are good."  so there was some optimism. Sadly, the pictures of drivers' and crew members' faces over the next couple of hours were not convincing, and fears were confirmed two hours after the red flag as Bernard announced that we had lost Dan Wheldon.

In another classy move by the IndyCar Series drivers and directors, the race was called. (Franchitti had won the championship as Power was one of the 15 cars in the crash, and James Hinchcliffe clinching the Rookie of the Year award with Hildebrand a part of the carnage, so nothing was to be gained.  The drivers decided to give Wheldon a five lap tribute. The 19 remaining cars lined up in rows of three and drove to a standing ovation in honor of their friend and fellow competitor. Tears filled the eyes of nearly all of the 19 drivers out there, including Danica Patrick and former teammates Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti. The driver tweets that keep pouring in tell what an amazing driver, man, and friend Dan Wheldon was. He will be missed.


The fact that IndyCar is so safe makes Wheldon's death even more disturbing.

Early in IndyCar's history, there were numerous fatalities, almost all during the Indianapolis 500, the basis of the IndyCar series. Cars weren't safe (some at the beginning didn't even have proper seatbelts) back then, and the tracks just lacked technology to maintain safety. This was a major concern when cars were traveling at over 237 mph over a 2.5 mile average at the Indianpolis Motor Speedway in 1996. Even more disturbing is the fact that the polesitter who ran that great lap, Scott Brayton, less than a week later passed away when he crashed in practice. It looks like a harmless crash, yet the safety features of the car and track just were not good enough. (Video of the crash is below, again, warning)

After that, cars were adjusted and made safer, with pole position speed the following year reduced to 218 mph. It just wasn't safe driving that fast with 33 cars on the track.

In 2003, multiple incidents including Mario Andretti and Kenny Brack led to more modifications to car and speedway safety, including the introduction of the SAFER barrier that is now standard in just about every speedway in the country. Andretti hit debris in a practice session and does a triple backflip, while Brack gets into the catch fence and survives a crash with the highest recorded G forces ever. Supposedly, after Brack's crash, they told cameramen to keep their cameras off of Brack's car because "he's probably dead."

In 2006, Paul Dana passed away after he didn't slow down quickly enough when a yellow flag came out during the morning practice before the opening race of the season. He smashed into another driver, and sustained unrecoverable injuries. 

Fatalities aren't limited to IndyCar. In 1999 during the season finale of the CART championships (when CART and IndyCar was split), Greg Moore was tragically killed when he lost control of his car and slammed into the infield fence. And most everybody remembers the tragic loss of Dale Earnhardt in the 2011 Daytona 500, another crash which looks harmless at first but shows the danger of racing at such high speeds. Earnhardt's crash led to the requirement of the HANS device developed in the open-wheel series in NASCAR, as well as better lapbelts for driver safety. (Both crashes available below)

But with all of the "issues" that come about with such a dangerous profession, you have to commend the great feats of the safety crews and the tracks of today.

First, lets look at a crash from the 2010 Indy 500. On the last lap, Mike Conway touches wheels with Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Conway ends up airborne and into the catch fence, much like Brack in '03, much like Wheldon did today. But what you have to love about the crash is that the car disintegrates upon impact, dispersing energy, saving Conway's life. He suffers a broken leg, out for the year, but comes back and wins in St. Petersburg the following year. Great story, the way you wish they all would end.

Next, an incident featuring Dan Wheldon during his rookie campaign in 2003.  Late in the Indy 500 that year, Wheldon gets loose in turn 3 and hits the wall. He flips and skids into turn 4 on his head before coming to a stop. What I love about this though is the safety crew around the track. My family and I sit in the Northwest Vista, the entrance of turn 4, for the Indy 500 each year. I tell you what, the response of the safety team was impeccable. As soon as he hit the wall, the safety truck was moving. And within 30 seconds, THIRTY SECONDS, the crew has Wheldon's car right-side-up yet again.  The safety crew travel with the series to each race, and know each driver and their history and everything about them. It's a great luxury to have. Instead of possibly a serious injury, Wheldon races again within a couple weeks and two years later is winning the 500.   (START THIS VIDEO AT 6:20 AND SEE FOR YOURSELF HOW QUICKLY THE SAFETY TEAM GETS TO DAN'S CAR)

And I'll end you on that note. It's such a dangerous sport, yet each year it gets more and more safe. I hope I never have to post on something like this again, but it is part of the sport. My thoughts and prayers go out to Dan's wife, children, and the rest of the Wheldon family. RIP Dan.