Here is this month’s free download for your personal use: A Facebook Timeline image featuring Christmas lights on the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument located in downtown Indianapolis. Feel free to download, use, and share this month’s free download.

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Here is this month’s free download for your personal use: A Facebook cover image featuring the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. Feel free to download, use, and share this month’s free download!

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation during a 2012 air show.

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation during a 2012 air show.

Here is this month’s free download for your personal use: A Facebook Timeline image featuring the IndyCar ride of Ed Carpenter. Feel free to download, use, and share this month’s free download!

Free Facebook cover image from Eric Scott Miller Photography, featuring Ed Carpenter's 2012 Indy 500 race car.

Free Facebook cover image from Eric Scott Miller Photography, featuring Ed Carpenter’s 2012 Indy 500 race car.

INDIANAPOLIS — IndyCar officials announced today that 2011 Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon was killed when his helmet struck a fence post which tore through his race car.

Wheldon was one of 15 drivers involved in a fiery crash on lap 11 of the October 16 series finale at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“The accident was significant due to the number of race cars damaged, but more importantly through the non-survivable injuries to Dan Wheldon,” said IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard.

The report detailed how Wheldon’s #77 car made contact with the left rear tire of Charlie Kimball’s car at 165 mph, sending Wheldon into the air. “The chassis of the 77 impacted a vertical post along the right side of the tub that created a deep defect in the tub that extended from the pedal bulk head, along the upper border of the tub and through the cockpit,” IndyCar President of Operations Brian Barnhart said. “As the race car passed by, the pole intruded into the cockpit and made contact with the driver’s helmeted head.”

There had been speculation on what created the tragedy on the 1.5-mile oval track. The official report identified several contributing variables which combined to create “a perfect storm.”

Barhnart said the investigation revealed “nearly unlimited movement on the track surface under race conditions. This capability of relatively free movement on the track without restraints of natural racing grooves must be attributed to the overall track geometry beyond banking.” Traditionally each race track has one or two racing grooves which limits a driver’s ability to utilize the entire track surface.

“The ability of the drivers to race from the bottom of the racetrack all the way up to the wall and run limitless is not a condition we’ve experienced before,” added Barnhart.

One factor which was eliminated during the investigation was the size of the starting field. “The 34-car starting field was determined to be acceptable based on factors such as length and width of the racetrack and pit space capability, and review of the incident supports the conclusion,” investigators concluded.

When the 2012 IndyCar schedule is released, Las Vegas will be missing. “Las Vegas is a great city, a resort destination. Our fans, our sponsors and everyone likes Las Vegas and it’s a great place for the race,” said Bernard. “But I don’t want to go back there if the conditions aren’t right and it’s not safe for our race cars.”

The Las Vegas race was the final event on the IndyCar schedule to utilize the IR3 Dallara chassis, which has been driven more than two million miles with Wheldon’s being the first fatality. Italian automaker Dallara, which recently moved into a new facility just south of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was poised to ship out the new DW12 chassis, named in honor of Wheldon who had logged more than 2,000 miles testing the new design.

(This article is copyright 2011 by Eric Scott Miller.)

My heart skipped a beat earlier today when I learned of the horrific accident at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway involving 2011 Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon.

This past May, I was introduced to IndyCar racing. I ended up being out at the track for qualifying weekend and shot a ton of photos. Although I wasn’t able to get one of Wheldon outside of his car, I did get several images as he raced around the famed 2.5-mile oval. Here is one of the images I captured that month:

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Dan Wheldon runs a lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May 2011.

A nice gift to wake up to this morning. The Evansville Courier & Press ran one of my photos on its website today to accompany an article about Bret Schmitt, chief Mechanic for Indy 500 driver Takumo Sato. Schmitt will not only be working in the garage for the Memorial Day festivities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he will also be over the wall working as Sato’s outside tire changer during the race.

Check out the article and the accompanying head shot here.

It is a pleasant day whenever one of my photos makes it off my hard drive and is published for people to enjoy. Since starting my journalistic career back in the *ahem* late 1980s, that thrill has yet to cease.

Therefore, it is no surprise I felt some joy this morning when I took at look at the Fashion Wrap Up blog to see a photograph of the lovely actress Penelope Ann Miller (no relation that I am aware of) from the Indianapolis premiere of Rob Reiner‘s new film, Flipped.

You can check out her stunning purple dress here.