Fatal Race Car Crash Hits For Local Family

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FORT SMITH, Ark. — A fatal crash at the Las Vegas Indy 300 is bringing back painful memories for a local family.

On Sunday, 33-year-old Dan Wheldon died in a 15-car crash during the race.

Wheldon’s race car went airborne during the chain-reaction crash before slamming into a fence and bursting into flames, killing the race car champion.

Family members said the crash is reminiscent of another that claimed the life of Jimmy Hickman in the 1980s.

“Open wheel cars inherently cannot, they’re not like stock cars, they can’t touch each other or rub one each other so when two tires touch, what started with a very lazy spin turned into the most horrific accident that I have seen in 40 years of racing,” ESPN racing analyst Eddie Cheever said.

Weldon was racing to win a $5 million purse that he planned to split with a spectator.

Jimmy Hickman died in qualifying crash for the Tony Bettenhausen 200 at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in 1982.

“He was a very independent person, very driven,” Hickman’s brother, Terry Hickman said.

The family said Jimmy moved to Atlanta to pursue his dreams. He died just two races after a run in the Indianapolis 500.

“Then the throttle stuck again this time in Milwaukee. It was a small track, an oval, he couldn’t stop it and hit the wall wide open, and has massive head injuries and he died the next morning,” Terry Hickman said.

He said his brother wanted to win at everything he did.

“He wanted to win the Indy 500 one time, then he wanted to pursue politics, either run for governor of Georgia or senator and then onto the president of the United States of America,” Hickman said.

Hickman was 39 when he died in that qualifying run at the Milwaukee Mile track.

Hickman said Wheldon’s death reminds him of what happened to his older brother.

“(It) brings back memories especially when this other driver got killed yesterday, Dan. It just brings back old memories,” Hickman said. “It’s truly a dangerous sport. It’s one of the most dangerous sports I guess there is.”

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