Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dan Wheldon and the Death Wager

In a West Los Angeles sports bar on Tuesday, a tall, skinny young man was holding court at the bar showing tapes on his IPad--tapes that could make you sick.

There were grisly shots from all angles of the aftermath of Sunday's 15-car crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which killed beloved IndyCar star Dan Wheldon. This wasn't the relatively tasteful footage shown on TV. These tapes were way at the other end of the spectrum.

Where did he get these tapes, from the Internet?

Tapeman, who said he saw the race in person, never gave a straight answer, only responding cryptically: "Deep underground, you have to know where to look."

This race probably never should have happened. It's the initial IndyCar event at this track in six years and the first time these cars have raced in this 1.5-mile oval since it was banked for speeds in excess of 220 mph.

The way the race was organized, the Speedway was essentially an IndyCar death trap.
Quite simply, too many cars (34) traveling too fast in too little space. The cliche--an accident waiting to happen--really fits here.

Glitzy and heavily hyped, this race was organized to spotlight the IndyCar circuit, which lags far behind NASCAR in attendance. Into this circus-like atmosphere, the sponsors tossed a promotional plum. Wheldon was promised a $5 million bonus if, starting in last place, he could finish first. Did the lure of those millions inspire him to take some risks? We'll never know.

Apparently this race had been red-flagged for some time. Reportedly drivers knew it was dangerous and so did industry experts, who warned that racing IndyCars on heavily-banked ovals was a bad idea.

The gambling community had targeted this race too, for, according to Tapeman, something ominiously called a death wager--something handled by a handful of underground bookies around the world. As he explained it, the bettor puts money on a driver, gambling that he'll be knocked out of the race by an accident or, for a whopper payoff, be killed. Tapeman said one of his buddies cashed in on Wheldon's death, winning several thousand.

Did he have any problem with such a sick wager?

Apparently not.

He replied: "Really, really sorry the guy is dead. but I'm also sorry I didn't bet on him."