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Questions linger over Dana crash

A somber mood surrounded routine work Monday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the aftermath of Paul Dana's death the day before, but unanswered questions lingered

The examination into the reason Dana didn't slow or attempt to avoid Ed Carpenter's spinning car continued Monday at the track, but nothing was disclosed by IRL IndyCar Series or Rahal Letterman Racing officials.

Crews worked throughout the day at Homestead in preparation for a test session Tuesday on the track's road course. The paddock buzzed quietly Monday with crew members, including those with Dana's team, Rahal Letterman Racing.

Rahal Letterman drivers Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick are expected to participate in Tuesday's test, the final tuneup before activity begins at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this weekend. Both drivers sat out Sunday's season opening Toyota Indy 300 after news of Dana's death was announced three hours before the race. Rice and Patrick were at the speedway Monday, but neither were available for comment.

Dana, a 30-year-old former racing journalist turned IndyCar driver, died of multiple trauma after a violent collision during a pre-race practice session Sunday morning. His No. 17 RLR Honda/Panoz struck the No. 20 Vision Racing Honda/Dallara driven by Carpenter some seven seconds after Carpenter's car began spinning and caution lights illuminated.

Team and league officials said communication was not an issue, that Dana clearly was being told via radio of the caution and was being shown on-board and track caution lights. Inexplicably, he continued on at speed, striking Carpenter's car just before it came to rest in Turn 2.

"There are a lot of situations that can affect your reaction," said Vitor Meira, one of several drivers who saw Carpenter's car spin and slowed to pass before Dana's car made impact. "If you're by yourself on the track and you have plenty of room to go anywhere, that's one thing. But if you're side-by-side with another car, you can't get away. I don't know what situation Paul was in. If you're alone, you have several options. If someone's with you, you don't have as many choices."

Less than six hours after the crash, drivers returned to their cars and competed in the race as scheduled. Dan Wheldon won, edging Helio Castroneves by 0.0147 seconds at the finish line for the ninth-closest finish in IRL history.

"It's definitely very sad," Castroneves said. "There's nothing that can be said. Losing a colleague right before a race, right at the beginning of the championship. But we all have a job to do. We love what we do, and the show must go on."

Meanwhile, Carpenter was released Monday afternoon in good condition from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he was held overnight for observation. Carpenter sustained a bruised lung, IRL officials said, and he will continue to be under the care of IRL doctors. He has not been cleared to drive, IRL officials said, but that doesn't mean he won't be cleared in time to race in St. Petersburg.

Carpenter did not sustain a concussion, league officials said. Roberto Moreno will drive the No. 20 car in Tuesday's test as Carpenter continues his recovery.

A memorial service for Dana will be held Thursday afternoon at Mahaffey Theater, located inside the temporary street course in St. Petersburg. A starting time for the service has yet to be determined, team officials said. Dana's family is handling private funeral arrangements.

While drivers mourned the loss of a fellow competitor, they also faced the prospect of returning to their race cars. During an emotional meeting Sunday with IRL president and chief executive officer Brian Barnhart, few drivers objected to continuing the race as planned. They put their apprehension behind them and completed the race.

"I can't imagine myself doing anything else right now," Meira said. "I've done this all my life. You see bad things happen like we saw yesterday, but you still love it. That's the reason why we do this. We go out on the track knowing there's a risk of not coming back to the pits, but we do it because we love it so much."

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