Why Is IndyCar so Dangerous?

58 deaths alone at indianapolis Motor Speedway, although not all IndyCar, still show that motorsports can be a life-threatening sport. So why with Motorcycling is IndyCar considered so dangerous. We take a look at the multiple reasons below.

IndyCar dangers can be caused by a combination of factors including: Engineering improvements that have increased speeds up to 230 mph, the age and design of oval tracks not being suited to these high speeds and the competitiveness of the cars resulting in drivers pack racing together at 200 miles an hour plus.

We look at these factors and others in the article below to help answer the questions why is indyCar so dangerous. We also look at the ways that IndyCar tries to mitigate these risks and the safety measures that have been introduced.

IndyCar Dangers: Oval Circuits

Oval circuits are far more dangerous than road or street circuits.

  • They have no runoff areas, and the drivers travel at a sustained speed, which is very high, and commonly due to the fact that they are using full throttle.
  • The fast speeds and unforgiving circuit designs have caused many accidents, and as such their popularity has started to decrease, with attendances decreasing at oval circuits every year. In addition, oval tracks often have banking, which is where the track is slanted.
  • This can make the speeds even faster and make it easier for cars to run side-by-side. On ovals, the cars can run flat-out, and often they do not even have to take a conventional racing line.
  • The number of oval tracks in IndyCar has seen a decrease over the past decade, with the 2021 schedule featuring just three oval tracks. In the 20 years prior to this season, 20 oval tracks joined and left the IndyCar schedule.
  • Another reason why ovals are dangerous is due to the fact that feature less strict safety regulations, as well as a higher number of vehicles racing in close proximity. This can result in large chain-reaction like crashes, which are commonly referred to as ‘The Big One’.
  • Many oval circuits were also built over 100 years ago, and as such, they are not suited to the speeds of modern IndyCar vehicles. Therefore, oval racing in IndyCar is very dangerous, and it has caused deaths and injuries.

What do Racing Drivers say?

2021 Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen told NBC Sport that he loves “to watch IndyCar.” However, he went on to explain that he is “happy to be in Formula 1, because [he is] not personally a big fan of ovals.” He said that “the street tracks and road courses are good,” but that he “would not be a big fan of oval racing [himself],” as “the risk of a big crash is big”.

He added that he knows that “in Formula 1 there also is risk of an impact, but when you hit a certain wall with 200-plus-mph, it’s not enjoyable”. He said that “that risk is higher in IndyCar, and especially if you would hit someone else and you go into the fence, there are plenty of examples where it doesn’t end well, or you end up being really hurt.” Verstappen, who shows how fearless he is in F1, appears to notice the apparent dangers of oval tracks.

Furthermore, Roman Grosjean, who joined IndyCar for the 2021 season, opted not to race at the four rounds on oval circuits as he felt they were too dangerous.  He told Motorsport.com that “as much as I’d like to win the Indy 500, it’s a significant risk and some of the accidents are wild.”

Grosjean had a massive F1 crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2020 that left many people fearing for his life, and he stated that “if I was 25 and had no children I would do the whole season, no doubt. But I am the father of three children, and for two minutes and 45 seconds in Bahrain I known they thought they had lost their father.”

He also clearly acknowledges the danger, but he decided to start racing on ovals for the 2022 season.

The Speeds of IndyCar Racing Make it Dangerous

The speeds, which are very fast when compared with other motorsports, also are very dangerous. 2015 saw a pattern of incidents, with several cars flipping over. Some of the drivers blamed these flips on the rising speeds.

2015 saw some cars reach over 230 miles-per-hour in practice sessions, as the new aerodynamic regulations sought to break records that were over two decades old. 230 miles-per-hour is seen as the ceiling for open-wheel cars, and so IndyCar sometimes chooses to strip engine boosts when these speeds are beginning to be touched.

IndyCar Dangers: Pack and Draft Racing.

The pack racing element of IndyCar also makes it particularly dangerous. IndyCar drivers can race close together at very fast speeds, with little distance between each other. This is far harder to do in single-seater races, and it is often between just two drivers, who are able to react fairly quickly.

Indy Car Safety Measures:

  • IndyCar drivers wear helmets made using Kevlar to help to protect their heads.
  • They also use the HANS device to help prevent a Basilar Skull Fracture.
  • Furthermore, they wear a one-piece fire suit, fire-resistant gloves and a fire-resistant head sock, also known as a balaclava, as well as fire-resistant shoes and socks in order to protect them from fires.
  • IndyCar has also implemented an Aeroscreen cockpit safety device which protects the drivers from hazardous on-track debris.
  • It is similar to the halo, which is used in Formula 1, and it was constructed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies to be used from the 2020 season. It is constructed from titanium and features an anti-reflective and anti-fogging polycarbonate laminated screen. Its strength is equal to that of F1’s halo.
  • Tracks are fitted with catch fences to protect spectators from flying debris and even flying cars in the event of a crash
  • The walls of the tracks have SAFER barriers which are designed to absorb impacts much MUCH more than the concrete walls often found behind them.

How many Fatal Accidents Have there been in IndyCar?

There have been many fatal accidents in IndyCar races. This includes the series’ that preceded IndyCar, such as the CART series.

  • The 1910s saw five driver deaths.
  • This number trebled by the 1920s, which saw 15 deaths.
  • The 1930s 14 drivers died
  • 1940s had 25 deaths
  • the 1950s, saw 20 drivers tragically pass away.
  • The 1960s saw 11 drivers die
  • a drop to four deaths in the 1970s.
  • The number fell again to two in the 1980s,
  • before it rose again to five in the 1990s.
  • The 2000s and the 2010s both saw two deaths, putting the all-time total at 95.

The last driver to die from injuries sustained at an IndyCar race was Justin Wilson in 2015. The British driver was racing in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway when debris from a crashed car tragically struck his helmet, causing him to crash and die.

Dan Wheldon, another British driver, passed away at the 2011 IZOD IndyCar World Championship race after a large multi-car accident that caused a blunt force trauma to his head.


Motor Racing is dangerous, across all forms of racing there are risks, however it appears there are more risks in open wheels, be that F1, Motorcycling or IndyCar. The speeds now being approached are in very real terms faster than it takes for a commercial plan to take off and the attention being paid to safety measures to both prevent and temper the results of this are vital.

no one wants to have to add to the list of accidents we have highlighted above.





Al lifelong Motor Racing Fan, with a particular love of NASCAR and IndyCar racing. Been in and out of cars of varying speeds since i was a child and sharing what i have learnt here.

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