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How can IndyCar be safer?

IndyCar appears to have curbed the tendency of cars going airborne earlier this year, but another high-speed crash that left a driver with fatal injuries likely will result in a re-evaluation of how to make the cars safer.

Justin Wilson died Monday in an Allentown, Pa., hospital after the flying nose piece of Sage Karam's car hit Wilson in the head during the IndyCar Series race Sunday at Pocono Raceway.

"Every accident is different," said Mario Andretti, one of the most accomplished racers of all time, with an Indianapolis 500 win, a Daytona 500 win and a Formula One championship. "Whether it's NASCAR, whether it's any form of the sport, you always learn something.

"On this instance, who would have ever thought a nose would come off and hit somebody? I'm sure that is going to be addressed vigorously."

The two most common reactions to preventing this injury likely will be whether the nose piece needs to be tethered to the car and whether the car should remain an open-cockpit vehicle.

"There's been some renderings of almost like a boomerang looking device in front of the driver that wouldn't block the vision but would deflect something like this," Wilson teammate and Pocono race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay said in his postrace news conference.

"There's been many renderings I've seen. Unfortunately, it's only natural that when there is a situation like this, a dire situation, that breeds innovation. You know, it's unfortunate, but I think that's the way life is in general. I think that's the way everything works."

The way things typically work after an accident in any major racing series is if a problem has a simple solution -- such as possibly tethering the nose to the car -- that would be done quickly. Something such as a canopy would take more time.

"The next thing, I think perhaps, they should have a tether on something that's so detachable as a nose," Andretti said. "There is a quick disconnect on the nose so they can change it quickly. Maybe they should have a tether on there."

All those interviewed for this story said their thoughts are with Wilson. They also applauded IndyCar in general for its safety record and the progress it has made in safety over the years.

Wilson isn't the first driver to get hit by debris. James Hinchcliffe was hit by debris in the 2014 Grand Prix of Indianapolis and missed several days before being cleared to race for the Indianapolis 500. Formula One driver Felipe Massa was hit by a spring in 2009, suffered a skull fracture and eventually returned to racing.

Putting a canopy on a car would raise several concerns from both a competitive and safety standpoint. They would weigh more and could impact the aerodynamics of a car.

"Is a canopy a good idea?" said former IndyCar and Formula One driver Eddie Cheever, an ESPN analyst, in a phone interview. "Immediately, you would say in this case, it's a great idea. But again, you don't know what the consequences will be.

"I'd hate to be in one of those canopies and it doesn't open and the car catches fire or the canopy breaks apart. Nothing is that simple in racing."

In NHRA's Top Fuel division, optional canopies were introduced in 2012. They cost approximately $25,000 once all the adjustments are made to the car and weigh 25 pounds. They work on an air-pressure locking system that if a driver touches the canopy, it pops open.

"I've been back and forth with it," Top Fuel driver Brittany Force said in a phone interview. "I definitely feel safer with the canopy on. At first, I felt claustrophobic and didn't like the feel of it. But once you get past that, I just feel safer. Taking it off is something I wouldn't want to do."

Brittany's father, legendary Funny Car racer John Force, is used to having a windshield and requires a canopy for all of his Top Fuel drivers. He said he has no idea what would work best for IndyCar so he can't give a recommendation of what the sanctioning body should do, but he knows that it works in drag racing.

"[We] have a really nice design," John Force said in a phone interview. "I don't think it has changed the aero. If anything, it might have made it better. ... My kids will never run one without it again. When my daughter first drove it, she hated it. But in two races, she loved it.

"It didn't change the vision."

So why don't some use it? John Force said it is about cost, concern over fire and driver stubbornness.

Andretti, who drives a two-seat open-wheel car before races for a fan to ride along, said the current drivers should be the ones who determine whether they have canopies.

"That [decision] should perhaps be in the hands of the actual drivers," Andretti said. "If they feel they should be lobbying for something like that, it would make more sense. I drive an open-cockpit two-seater car but in not much traffic.

"I've driven those [open-wheel] cars for 40 years. ... We have open-wheel, sports cars closed and open, and we have stock cars. The driver can make a choice where they want to be, I suppose."

As far as the racing in general, Cheever said every racer is willing to take the risk, but he thinks that they shouldn't be full throttle through the corners, forcing drivers to lift in the corners.

"Every time there is an accident like this, there is always a variety of ideas that pop up," Cheever said. "I don't think it is possible to just grab a new rule out of a magician's hat and put it on the car and all will be perfect, because there will be unintended consequences.

"The core of the problem -- it is just my opinion -- is it is just too easy to drive these cars full throttle all day long. The biggest concern a driver has is to not take his foot off the throttle. I think it would be safer if the cars would be more difficult to get around the corners than they are now."

The other issue in the Wilson accident is whether his height made a difference. Wilson is the tallest driver in IndyCar standing at 6-foot-3½ inches. Josef Newgarden, who is 6-foot, said he didn't think height would make a difference.

"They make a regulation for how tall you can be inside the car sitting compared to the roll hoop," Newgarden said in his postrace news conference following his second-place finish. "It's safe for any height for any driver that gets in the car. ... I don't feel any more exposed than any other driver in the car.

"This is IndyCar racing. They make it as safe as they can."

Cheever said he was mortified by what happened and that any accident such as the one that occurred Sunday affects drivers.

"This is an issue not only IndyCar has but also Formula One has," Cheever said. "People have worked very hard to keep the drivers as low as they can.

"We have headrests on the side of the helmets, we have something in front of the [driver] and the [safety] bar in the back. But if the stars are aligned against you, as they were with Justin, what makes sure a bulletproof canopy can stop it?"

ESPN's John Oreovicz contributed to this report.