For those of you that follow all the typical IZOD IndyCar folks on Twitter, you probably know that it was 14 years ago today that we lost Scott Brayton.  He was killed in a practice accident at Indianapolis after qualifying for the pole position the weekend before.  I never met Scott but from the stories that the people who did know him tell, he seemed like a fantastic person.  We all knew he was a racer.  So we remember him today.

These memories also stirs the thoughts of others who have been lost at the Speedway.  I’ve always said that IMS is a living breathing organism.  (Most folks just look at me weirdly and move on.)  She can grant the greatest of joys, not only to drivers, but to fans like us who enter her hallowed gates.  Instant immortality for its winners and conquerors.  But she also has a mean streak of a woman scorned and will injure, maim, or kill you if you turn your back, lose your concentration for a millisecond, or take for granted how tough she really is.  The place DEMANDS your respect. 

In 1992, we got another look at how tough IMS can be.  Raceday itself was very cold and numerous accidents during the running of the 500 were directly related to that weather.  But a driver was killed in practice that year as well. Up and coming Phillipino driver Jovy Marcelo was killed in what seemed to be an innocuous hit into the Turn 1 wall.  It was estimated that he was traveling just over 170 mph, much less than the qualifying speeds in excess of 235 mph that would soon arrive at the speedway.  His cause of death was a basilar skull fracture, the same injury that claimed Scott Brayton’s life four years later.  Luckily, the HANS device would become mandatory in 2001 in Indy Car Racing and we have been spared more tragedies such as these.  The SAFER barrier has also saved many drivers lives and saved them from worse injuries than they may have suffered had they just smacked the old concrete walls.

So, when we talk about all of the joy this month of May brings to all of us, we should take a moment to remember those who have lost their lives at the Speedway, drivers, crewmen, workers, and spectators alike.  I know I feel their spirit when I enter the track on Carb Day for the first time race weekend.  Should we dwell on the fact that racing sometimes takes from us our heroes, friends, and family members?  No, they wouldn’t want us to.  I firmly believe that. 

We honor them with our continued presence at the place they loved so much.  We honor them by making the sport they gave their life for safer.  We honor them by telling the next generation of racing fans about them to keep their memories alive forever.

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