Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Remembering Dan Wheldon

RIP Dan Wheldon (1978-2011).
Dan Wheldon was born in Emberton, near Olney, Buckinghamshire, England. At the age of 4, he started his racing career and was very successful at it. Dan attended Bedford school until he completed his GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) at age 16.
Dan started his racing career with Go- Karts and had funding from his father. He moved to America in 1999, because the level of investment needed to fund his racing career in the UK was beyond his family’s resources. After his move to America, Dan spent several years in lower open wheeled circuits, ( the U.S. F2000 Championship Series, the Toyota Atlantic Series and the Indy Lights Series. ).
In 2002, Wheldon moved up to the IRL ( Indy Car Series) for two events, with Panther Racing. The following year, Wheldon joined Andretti Green Racing.
He won his first IRL race at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan. He won the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and the 2005 Indy Car Series Championship. After the 2005 Indianapolis 500, Danica Patrick emerged from the race as the biggest star. She was interviewed on Good Morning America the morning after the race, and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Race winner Dan Wheldon wore a t- shirt stating "Actually won the Indy 500."
In November 2005, It was announced that he would be driving for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Indy Car Series in 2006. Dan won the 24 hours of Daytona endurance sports car race with Ganassi teammates Scott Dixon and NASCAR driver Casey Mears. He began the Indy Car Season strong by beating Helio Castroneves by 0.0147 seconds at Homestead - Miami , a somber race due to the earlier death of Paul Dana in a practice session.
On June 22, 2008,( Dan’s 30th birthday) After he won the 2008 Iowa Corn Indy 250 over Hideki Nutoh and Marco Andretti- He donated his winnings to help victims of the recent tornado’s and flooding which had occurred in Iowa. Wheldon was released from his ride at Ganassi in 2008 and he was replaced by Dario Franchitti. Dan married his long time personal assistant, Susie Behm in 2008.
Wheldon returned to panther racing in 2009 and finished second in the 2009 Indianapolis 500. However, his strong start to the season faded and Wheldon failed to crack the Top 10 in 7 of the last 8 races of the year. The following year Wheldon again showed strong at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, finishing second at the 2010 Indianapolis 500. In February 2009, Dan and Susie Wheldon had there first child, a beautiful baby boy named Sebastian.
Despite strong showings in the Panther Racing No.4 car, Wheldon still failed to win a race during his time with the team. This led to him being replaced at Panther Racing by the young American driver (and 2009 Indy Lights Champion) J.R. Hildebrand.
Wheldon attempted and won the 2011 Indianapolis 500 with Bryan Herta Auto sport. He was the first driver in Indy History to win the race by leading a single lap. Rookie JR. Hildebrand was going around the final turn and slammed into the wall, then Wheldon took the lead and claimed the victory. Dan was very emotional after the win, due to not having a ride for the rest of the season and concerning his mother who had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, to whome he partially dedicated his victory. It was Weldon’s first series win in three seasons. In March of 2011, Dan and Susie Wheldon had there second child, a beautiful baby boy named Oliver. When Dan Wheldon was not racing, he did most of the testing on the new 2012 Indy Car.
Sunday October 16th was the IZOD Indy Car World Championships at Las Vegas Motor speedway. 2 time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon died Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after his car became ensnared in a fiery 15-car pileup. His car flew over another vehicle and landed in a catch fence just outside turn 2.Wheldon was airlifted from the track to University Medical Center; about two hours later, his colleagues were told of his death by Indy Car CEO Randy Bernard. The accident appeared to start when Wade Cunningham's car swerved on the track and Hildebrand drove over the left rear of Cunningham's car. Hildebrand appeared to go airborne, and Cunningham's car shot up into the wall, setting off a chain reaction among the cars behind him. Some of those cars slowed, others didn't, and others spun in front of Wheldon and Power. There was so much chaos on the track it was hard to tell who was driving what car. Power appeared to fly over Alex Lloyd's car, rolling into the catch fence and landing on its right side. Wheldon then appeared to drive over a car driven by Toronto's Paul Tracy, who seemed to be slowing down. Wheldon, however, went airborne and spun into the fence. The track was red-flagged following the accidents while crews worked on fences and removed smashed cars. After the tragic death of Dan Wheldon, the drivers decided to cancel the race and honor Wheldon with a 5-lap salute. When the Indy Car drivers returned to the track for the tribute laps, Wheldon's No. 77 was the only one on the towering scoreboard. Franchitti sobbed uncontrollably as he got back into his car for the memorial ride. The sound of "Danny Boy" echoed around the track, followed by "Amazing Grace." Hundreds of crew workers from each team stood at attention in honor of Wheldon. What can you say? We're going to miss him," Ganassi said. "Everybody in Indy Car died a little today.” After his death, Michael Andretti revealed that Wheldon had signed with Andretti Auto sports for a multi-year deal to replace driver Danica Patrick.
  The Indy Car series will never be the same without Dan Wheldon. Family, friends and race fans will always remember his beautiful smile and his charming ways.
Nothing drove me to tears more than what ESPN's Marty Reid had to say at the end of the telecast on Sunday:
"Many people ask me why I always sign off with 'Till we meet again,' because 'goodbye' is always so final. Goodbye, Dan Wheldon."
Rest in peace, Dan. You will never be forgotten.

RIP <3

A memorial site, which includes a Facebook link to leave condolences and remembrances and a career photo retrospective, can be found at





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