'WE'RE ALL ON THE SAME PAGE'
By Dave Lewandowski, IndyCar.com
IZOD IndyCar Series drivers met with sanctioning body principals Oct. 24 in a forum for frank dialogue and to disseminate information about a variety of subjects. They left the three-hour session saying it was "constructive."
INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard invited drivers to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the meeting in the wake of the death of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and '05 series champion Dan Wheldon from injuries suffered in an Oct. 16 race accident.
"... we all got to talk a lot, listen a lot and just look at going forward how do we improve things really in all areas," said four-time series champion Dario Franchitti, who along with Tony Kanaan and Justin Wilson have taken the lead in the drivers' association formed in August 2010. "I think it was a very positive and productive meeting and that is the first step today."
The group – similar to Formula One's Grand Prix Drivers' Association – exchanges ideas on issues such as safety and promotion. Many IZOD IndyCar Series drivers attended the public memorial service Oct. 23 in Indianapolis for Wheldon.
"There's still a lot of heavy hearts but everybody is very positive and everybody had ideas," Franchitti continued. "We're all on the same page; we're all trying to improve things. It obviously was a massive shock what happened to Dan last week and we saw with the MotoGP yesterday as well that racing is a dangerous business. We're trying to make it as safe as possible; that's always been the goal."
Kanaan, who said he was impressed with the spirit of cooperation, insisted that efforts are not in response to Wheldon's death but an ongoing initiative to promote and improve safety.
"We're heading in the right direction," the 2004 series champion said. "(The meeting is) not something that is being done because something happened now. We set the standards. INDYCAR created the soft walls so we're always going to set the standards. We're just trying to make it better.
"What people have to understand is that we're not going to make motor racing 100 percent safe. That's the fact. We're the lab and hopefully we can make it better, make it safer, but we'll never make it 100 percent safe."
Wheldon was the driver of the 2012 Dallara Automobili chassis during the seven-week validation program completed in late September. The second phase of testing -- for engine manufacturers -- is ongoing until mid-December. Kanaan will join Franchitti in taking the Chevrolet and Honda cars, respectively, out for a spin next week.
"Dan did a lot of hard work on that car," Franchitti said. "Now the manufacturers have the car, Honda and Chevy. Making the car drive well is all part of making the car safer. It's an ongoing process in all areas right now. There's a responsibility for all the drivers. We, as drivers, have the support of each other and we have the support of the IndyCar Series."
Added veteran Davey Hamilton, who suffered foot injuries in a 2001 crash: "Dallara is doing extra with the new car so that we're safe. We have to take it to the next level and be the leader on the cutting-edge of safety and I think the IndyCar Series is up for that."