From the Marbles - NASCAR

An autopsy on Monday has determined that Dan Wheldon died of blunt force trauma to the head.

From the AP:

The 33-year-old Wheldon was pronounced dead at 1:54 p.m. Sunday at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, where he was flown by medical helicopter after the crash at the track about 19 kilometers (12 miles) away.

After an autopsy, [Clark County Coroner Michael] Murphy ruled the death an accident, the result of blunt trauma to the head due to a motor vehicle collision, and offered condolences to friends and family of the married father of two from England.

Wheldon was pronounced dead less than an hour after the fiery crash, which included 15 cars. Wheldon, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion and 2005 Izod IndyCar Series champion, had started in the back of the 34-car field in an attempt to win a $5 million bonus put up by IndyCar officials.

[Related: Dan Wheldon's final days were filled with joy]

The initial crash happened in front of Wheldon's car. As he stayed in the throttle on the low line to attempt to avoid the melee, the crash came down in front of him. When it did, Wheldon's car catapulted off of the back of E.J. Viso's and flew through the air. The car slammed into the catch fence and wall below, then slid to the bottom of the track.

Wheldon was extracted from the car and immediately helicoptered to Las Vegas' University Medical Center. The helicopter took off at 1:19 p.m. local time, and Wheldon was pronounced dead a little over a half-hour later.

Wheldon's death is the first in-race fatality for the Izod IndyCar Series in its 15-year history. However, three drivers, Paul Dana, Tony Renna and Scott Brayton, were killed in practice crashes, Dana at Homestead in 2006 and the latter two at Indianapolis in 2003 and 1996, respectively.

Three other drivers who went to the hospital because of the crash have been treated and released. Will Power was released on Sunday after complaining of lower back pain and Pippa Mann and JR Hildebrand were discharged on Monday. Mann burned her right pinkie finger and will need a second operation while Hildebrand has a bruised sternum.

More coverage of Dan Wheldon's death:
Death leaves many questions without answers
Video: Drivers react to his passing
Indy 500 champ dies in horrific crash
Video: Dan Wheldon's visit with Y! Sports just before his death

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