Having been around motorsports of one sort or another my whole life, I have unfortunately been touched by the deaths of a couple of drivers that I’ve competed against. Having been a driver, I suspect that the death of another driver tends to affect me more deeply than those who haven’t raced. Because of this I typically don’t feel the need to broadcast my feelings, there are enough people who want to do that. I wasn’t going to write about Paul Dana’s death, as I think enough has been said already. Then on Tuesday, I read an article in the Toronto Sun by Dean McNulty titled “Dana had no place on an IRL track” and it made me so angry that I had to comment.
The author goes to great lengths to explain how inexperienced Dana was and how tragic it was that he was allowed to race cars at this level. From what I can see Mr. McNulty, supposedly a motorsports writer, has no concept of the route an open wheel racer takes to get to the top levels of the sport. Like any pro sport, motor racing has a ladder of sorts that most athletes climb on their way to the top level. Most racers start in karts, or a lower powered formula car like a Formula Ford or Vee, then progress to any number of higher formulas as talent and funding allow. McNulty asserts that Dana had reached the Infiniti Pro Series “a minor league stepping stone and did reasonably well, winning two races and a couple of poles”. What McNulty fails to mention is that the IPS is the last rung on the ladder before progressing to the IRL and that Dana had two full seasons, including finishing 2nd overall in the series. One of his wins came on the Milwaukee Mile, one of the fastest super speedways & he had the pole at the Homestead track that claimed his life. Clearly, Dana was a talented driver, with exactly the background needed to make the step onto the top wrung of the ladder. Mr. McNulty even goes so far as to compare Dana’s experience to that of “rookie sensation”Danica Patrick. Firstly, how is his ten years of race experience any less credible than her ten years of experience? I’ll go out on a big limb here & say that the only reason Miss Patrick is a sensation is that she is a she. Danica Has never won a race at a pro level, she is essentially a fast also ran, Dana was the real deal. Sure, he was able to put together the sweet sponsorship deal, but he also had the goods to deliver the results once he sat in the car.
“If open wheel racing doesn’t change the way it does business, the blood will be on it’s hands”
I’m not normally one to criticize someone elses views in public, I firmly believe in freedom of speech and all that stuff, but this article goes beyond a public opinion. This smacks of witch hunt. For years, media and politicians and at times even the vatican have tried to shut down motor racing due to it’s barbaric nature. The racing community is more aware of safety now than ever and millions of dollars are spent every year researching ways to make racing safer. Even with modern safety equipment, proper driver education and trackside medical support, the reality is that racing is a dangerous sport. It is a obviously a tragedy when a driver dies, and of course the racing community needs to examine each incident to gain knowledge that may prevent similar incidents in the future.
Driver error does occur. Let’s face it, driver’s are human and sometimes they make mistakes and those mistakes can have grave consequences, but we don’t need some journalist sensationalizing those mistakes in an effort to make themselves look like some sort of prophet. If all the reports are correct, it sounds like Paul Dana may have made a mistake. Perhaps he was blinded by the sun, as the photos show some major shadows on the track from trees outside the track. We will never know. Just don’t let the media turn this into a modern cry to banish motor racing again. Paul Dana would want the racing world to go on competing.