IRL: Preliminary Charlotte Crash Details Outlined

15 May 1999

Investigations to continue....

INDIANAPOLIS - Preliminary findings from a comprehensive investigation of the racing accident that occurred May 1 in Charlotte, N.C., are outlined by Pep Boys Indy Racing League Executive Director Leo Mehl in the following statement:

"The Indy Racing League, in cooperation with Lowe's Motor Speedway, has been conducting an aggressive, coordinated investigation regarding the racing incident that involved spectators. Appropriately, the League's investigation has been concentrated on racing vehicles and on-track activities inside the fence, while Charlotte's investigation has concentrated on activities in the stands and outside the fence. Since a wheel left the racing surface and entered the spectator stands, these investigations have overlapped. While the investigation is far from being completed, I wanted to provide a status report on the preliminary findings with the expectation that more findings will be available in 60 days.

"What we believe we know is that during the 59th lap of the Charlotte race, the number 19 car, driven by Stan Wattles, experienced a problem with the right-front corner of the car while competing at ordinary racing speeds and while in the normal racing groove of the track. The nature of the front-end problem is not currently known and very well may never be known. The Wattles car veered to the right striking the outside wall near the exit of Turn 4. The significance of this impact was that the force of the impact with the wall scrubbed off the right-front and right-rear wheels of the Wattles car. The track barriers did contain the debris of this impact. Unfortunately, the number 10 car, driven by John Paul Jr., traveled through the debris and one of the wheels from the Wattles car struck the John Paul car, causing the wheel to be deflected over the fence into the adjacent spectator stand. While it is currently believed that the wheel in question was the right-rear wheel from the Wattles car, there is no question that the wheel, which escaped the track, was from the right side of the number 19 car. We also know that the wheel did not go through the fence, nor did it go over the fence as a direct result of Wattles' initial impact. The wheel of the Wattles car was clearly propelled over the fence when it was struck by the car driven by John Paul.

"As a result of contact with the debris from the Wattles car, John Paul Jr.'s car suffered an impact into the wall and the loss of its right-front wheel and its right-rear tire; both of which were contained by the wall and fence barrier. The third car involved in the accident, the number 66 car driven by Scott Harrington, spun in an attempt to avoid the debris field, but was able to proceed after repairs and was running under a yellow flag when the race was red-flagged.

"There is no evidence of any improper driving by any of the three drivers involved in this incident.

"Again, our investigation is not complete. Determining the wheel's clearance level over the fence is a goal of future research. Given this ongoing investigation, I cannot emphasize enough that the information and conclusions provided today are preliminary. While we expect the investigation to confirm most of the early conclusions, we remain open-minded to new evidence that could be uncovered during our continued investigation efforts."

Editors Note: For hundreds of hot racing photos and racing art, be sure to visit The Racing ImageGalleries and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.

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