Rookie driver Paul Dana dies after crash

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Rookie American driver Paul Dana died after crashing in a warmup session for the IRL's season-opening Toyota Indy 300.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:39 IST
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Rookie American driver Paul Dana died after crashing in a warmup session for the IRL's season-opening Toyota Indy 300, won by Dan Wheldon on Sunday. Dana, a former motorsports journalist living his dream, was streaking around Homestead-Miami Speedway when he failed to notice another car had spun to a stop, slamming into it at close to 200 mph. Two hours after his shattered car came to a rest, the 30-year-old Dana was pronounced dead at a hospital. Dana believed he had finally received his big break in the months before the IRL IndyCar Series race. After a string of modest successes rising through racing's ranks, he had secured a ride with the elite Rahal Letterman Racing - the same team that fields Danica Patrick and Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice. Patrick and Rice did not run on Sunday, but the race went on as planned, with defending Indy 500 and IRL points champion Wheldon beating Helio Castroneves by a nose cone. Two days before his death - the first in the IRL in three years - Dana was strolling through the paddock, shaking hands and signing autographs. Dana's wife, Tonya, was in Indianapolis, where the couple lived, and was notified of her husband's death while attending a church service. Career graph Dana, who began his career in Formula Fords and worked his way up through the ranks, was known as a strong self promoter. He got his new ride by bringing the Ethanol sponsorship to the Rahal Letterman team over the winter. Both drivers were flown by helicopter to a Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where Dana was pronounced dead about two hours after the crash. IRL officials said tests revealed no injuries to Carpenter, but the 25-year-old third-year driver was kept overnight for observation. Dana's previous three IRL races with Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing came at the start of the 2005 season. He finished a season-best 10th at Homestead, but his year ended in May when he sustained a broken back while practicing for the Indianapolis 500. He is the first IRL driver killed since Tony Renna died in a crash during testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October 2003. The last NASCAR driver killed was Dale Earnhardt in February 2001, and the last driver to die in Formula One was Ayrton Senna in May 1994. It is the third racing death at the Homestead track - John Nemechek was killed in a NASCAR truck race in February 1997 and Jeff Clinton died in a Grand Am sports car event at the track in March 2002. The IRL also had a tragedy in May 1999 when a wheel from a car sailed into the grandstand at what was then Charlotte Motor Speedway, killing three spectators and injuring eight others. (AP)

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