Danica sits out season opener after death of teammate

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114366058620480.jpg’, ”, ‘Paul Dana’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114366060220480.jpg’, ”, ‘Danica Patrick’);

Local favorite and former Roscoe resident Danica Patrick withdrew from Sunday’s Toyota Indy 300 race in Homestead-Miami, Fla., after her teammate Paul Dana was killed in a horrific accident during a warm-up session prior to the start of the race.

Dana was on the track, along with several other drivers, preparing their cars for the start of the IndyCar Series season-opening race. Fellow driver Ed Carpenter crashed his car into the wall and went spinning down the track. Many drivers were able to avoid Carpenter’s car, but rookie driver Dana wasn’t able to, and slammed into the side of the damaged machine at nearly full speed, estimated to be 176 miles per hour.

Both drivers were pulled from their vehicles, and flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital. Dana died from his injuries a short time later. Carpenter was not seriously injured, but was being held at the hospital for further tests and observation.

Rahal Letterman Racing team co-owner Bobby Rahal said prior to the race: “This is a great tragedy, and a very black day for us.”

Dana was the newest team member for the Rahal Letterman team. He was to join Buddy Rice and 2005 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Patrick on the Rahal Letterman team this season. Out of respect for their fallen teammate and his family, both Rice and Patrick withdrew from the race. Most of the drivers who competed in the race had decals of Dana’s No. 17 on their sidepods.

The race did proceed as scheduled, and defending IRL points champion Dan Wheldon beat Helio Castroneves across the finish line by about a foot to claim victory.

The series moves to St. Petersburg this weekend for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Race time is 2:30 p.m., Sunday, April 2, and will be broadcast on ESPN. Both Rice and Patrick are expected to compete.

Doug Halberstadt is a local resident and is track announcer at Rockford Speedway. He can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.

From the March 29-April 4, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!