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Entries in Dan Wheldon (5)

Monday
Oct242011

Fans and Friends Gather to Remember Dan Wheldon

Nick Laham/Getty Images(INDIANAPOLIS) -- Friends and fans of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon gathered in Indianapolis on Sunday to remember the driver, only a week after the 33-year-old died in a fiery 15-car crash during the 11th lap of a race in Las Vegas.

Wheldon’s wife of three-and-a-half years, Susie, laughed and wiped away tears as Dan’s closest confidantes paid tribute to their friend, who they said had a one-of-a-kind personality.

“It’s just me being me, baby!” said Jeff Belskus, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, summing up Wheldon’s unique flair.

One of Wheldon’s managers, Mickey Ryan, remembered a fun night out on the town in 2005 after Wheldon won his first Indianapolis 500.

The only problem?  Wheldon was scheduled to begin doing media interviews at 6 a.m. the next day.  Although Wheldon’s posse partied into the wee hours of the morning, he was up in time for his first interview.

Despite a massive hangover, Ryan said Wheldon “nailed it like a pro.”  But later in the day, the lack of sleep caught up with Wheldon, who fell asleep while he was waiting to do a radio phone interview.

His 2011 Indy 500 victory, however, was different.

“It was all about the family,” said Wheldon’s other manager, Adrian Sussmann.  “He simply had to have a trophy and pace car for each of his boys!”

Wheldon leaves behind two sons, Sebastian, 2, and Oliver, 8 months.

“Dan understood the racing character,” Belskus said.  “His heart belonged to the sport he loved.”

Wheldon, who was born in Emberton, England, began racing go-karts at the age of four, after his father introduced him to competitive racing.

He moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1999 and joined the IndyCar series in 2003.  Aside from his two Indianapolis 500 wins, Wheldon posted impressive stats as his career revved up.  In eight full seasons, he had 132 career starts, collected 26 top-three finishes, 93 top-10 finishes and five pole positions, and also won the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

Wheldon was laid to rest in his adopted hometown of St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct182011

Dan Wheldon Tragedy: Racetrack Officials Fire Back

Nick Laham/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- Officials in charge of the Las Vegas racetrack where two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon died in a fiery crash are defending the speedway's conditions.

Las Vegas Speedway President Chris Powell spoke after comments were made by critics and drivers that the track was unsafe leading to Sunday's 15-car pileup.

"We as a speedway make sure we provide a venue that they come in and make an assessment when they're ready to race -- and they did that exact thing," Powell said late Monday.  "Our speedway conforms to every regulation that any sanctioning body has ever held it to, and we're very proud of that."

Now that the debris and mangled metal has been removed, there are questions about whether the track was too fast, too small, and too crowded.

The track where Sunday's tragic accident took place is relatively small -- a mile-and-a-half-long oval.  Because of its smaller size, drivers are constantly turning.  Comparatively, the Indianapolis 500 track is two-and-a-half miles long, giving significantly more room for drivers to spread out and to see in front of them.

Driver Scott Meadow says that he has raced the Las Vegas speedway countless times on the turn that claimed Wheldon's life at speeds of up to 220 miles an hour.  He described the conditions during competitive racing as very tight.

"It's more like 30 airplanes racing together than cars," Meadow said.

Still, it is that speed, that danger, that the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner craved.  Just days before his death, Wheldon told the television show Extra that he couldn't wait to take on this challenging track.

"I think it's going to be one of Indy Car's finest races outside of the Indianapolis 500," Wheldon said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct182011

Crowded Track, Young Drivers Factor in Fatal Indy Crash, Expert Says

Robert Laberge/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- A factor contributing to the crash that killed two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon was that the track had a crowded field of cars and that many of the drivers were not experienced with the steeply banked Las Vegas Motor Speedway, said Terry Blount, the senior writer of motor sports for ESPN.com.

Blount said the track’s layout -- a high-banked, 1.5 mile long oval -- meant that drivers never let off the gas at 220-plus mph while driving in a big pack.

“They just go flat out all the way around,” he said.  “They never let off the gas.”

Because of this, in addition to the lack of fenders on the cars, he said, “If you touch wheels, you’re more than likely going to have an accident.”

Besides the usual safety concerns, Blount told ABC News that Sunday’s race had involved 34 cars -- usually there are 20 to 25 for a track like this -- and that Indy had not raced since 2000 at Las Vegas, which had undergone a reconfiguration nearly four years ago.

“Obviously more cars presents more danger.  They wanted a whole lot of cars cause obviously this is their season finale and they wanted it to be a big deal.  Some of the people that were driving in this event yesterday had no business being in it.  Some of them had never driven on a track like this.  That was a mistake,” he said.

He said the race would likely not have that many drivers again and would likely have more requirements for younger, less experienced drivers they allow to race on a similar track.

IndyCar said via email that there were no representatives available for interviews at the time of posting.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct172011

Dan Wheldon Frustrated with Car's Speed Before Fatal Crash

Nick Laham/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon expressed concern he wouldn't be able to get enough speed from his car in the Las Vegas race where he died in a fiery 15-car pile-up.

In the Sunday crash that killed the English racing champion, Wheldon's car, traveling at over 220 miles per hour into a turn, climbed the back of racer Paul Tracy's vehicle and burst into flames as it went airborne. The car flipped over and slammed into a crash-fence above the track's retaining wall; some veteran racers called the wreck the worst they'd ever seen.

In a blog before the race by Wheldon posted on USA Today, the 33-year-old racer had expressed concern that he wasn't going to be able to climb to the speed needed, saying that he and his team "just didn't have the speed" at a recent race at the Kentucky Speedway.

"So far, things haven't been going very well as we've started our pursuit of the GoDaddy IndyCar Challenge this weekend...but I'm confident in the ability of the guys at Sam Schmidt Motorsports to find the problem and get it fixed," Wheldon wrote.

"It's actually been a very difficult weekend for us so far. Basically we carried over our problem from Kentucky Speedway, where we just didn't have the speed and never really found it."

In the blog Wheldon went on to express frustration that his No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Magnolia/William Rast Dallara/Honda was three miles per hour off pace.

"If we start the race that far off the pace, it's going to be difficult to keep up," Wheldon wrote.

Sunday's pile-up happened just 11 laps into the final race of the Indycar season. The 34-car race made for a considerably crowded track, and drivers were speeding, even by Indy standards, reaching up to 225 mph.

For several long, shocking moments after the crash a number of cars were engulfed in flame as debris smacked the track so hard that workers would have to repair the asphalt.

"I saw two cars touch each other up in front of me and then I tried to slow down, couldn't slow down," driver Paul Tracy told ESPN. "Then Dan's car, from what I saw in the videos, came over my back wheel and over top of me. Just a horrendous accident."

Wheldon's car was thrown into the air and sailed into the "catch fence," designed to give cars a bit of cushion if they make impact. Workers almost immediately rushed to Wheldon's car, frantically waving for more help, but in the end, as Bernard described it, Wheldon's injuries were "unsurvivable."

Wheldon was airlifted from the Las Vegas track at Sunday afternoon and taken to University Medical Hospital.

Wheldon died surrounded by his wife Susie and sons, as well as two brothers and sister.

The crash also sent three fellow racers, including championship contender Will Power, to the hospital.

Wheldon was there competing to earn a $5 million bonus that was part of a league promotion for drivers who didn't compete full-time in the series this year. The only driver to accept the challenge, Wheldon would have split the money with Ann Bavenco, a randomly chosen fan.

A number of racers reportedly expressed concern earlier this week over the track's blinding speeds ahead of Sunday's IndyCar series final. At least one driver, Scottish racer Dario Franchitti, echoed those comments Sunday after the crash and before it was announced Wheldon died.

Wheldon was beloved on the Indycar circuit as a gregarious figure and talented driver who'd won the series championship in 2005.

"He was one of my best friends and one of my greatest teammates," Brazilian driver Tony Kanaan said Sunday.

Sven Behm, Wheldon's father-in-law, spoke kindly of him after he learned of the news.

"He wasn't just a great driver he was a great human being. He was always very, very positive. Always had something good to say about everybody" Behm said.

After learning of Wheldon's death Sunday's race was canceled. As bagpipes sounded, Wheldon's fellow drivers drove five laps in his honor.

Just before the race, Wheldon wrote: "This is going to be an amazing show. The two championship contenders, Dario Franchitti and Will Power, are starting right next to each other in the middle of the grid. Honestly, if I can be fast enough early in the race to be able to get up there and latch onto those two, it will be pure entertainment. It's going to be a pack race, and you never know how that's going to turn out."

He ended the blog on USA Today, telling fans: "As long as I can find some speed and keep up with the pack, I'll do everything I can to put on a show."

Born in Emberton, England, he began racing go-karts at the tender age of 4 after his father got him started in competitive racing. He competed in England, winning eight British national titles along the way before moving to St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1999.

After time in a few low-profile series, he joined the IndySeries in 2003. In eight full IndyCar Series seasons, he has posted 132 career starts, collected 26 top-three finishes, 93 top-10 finishes and five pole positions, also winning the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

Wheldon, who won the Indy 500 in 2005 and 2011 and won 16 other races, was set to replace Danica Patrick next season in the Go-Daddy-sponsored car for Andretti Autosport after she moves to NASCAR full-time in 2012.

Family has been a staple in Wheldon's life. In 2010 he released a photo book in collaboration with photographer Michael Voorhees. The book includes pictures of his wedding, candid photos off the racetrack, as well as a photo tribute to his racing career.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Oct162011

IndyCar Driver Dan Wheldon Dies in Multi-Car Crash

The car of Dan Wheldon bursts into flames in a 15-car pile up including the during the Las Vegas Indy 300 part of the IZOD IndyCar World Championships presented by Honda at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Robert Laberge/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- A tragic crash at the IndyCar World Championships in Las Vegas Sunday left driver Dan Wheldon dead.  He was 33.

A fiery 15-car crash on turn two of lap 13 sent Wheldon's car airborne, causing fatal injuries for the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner during the season finale race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  

Wheldon was airlifted from the track Sunday afternoon and taken to a nearby hospital.  Just two hours after the the accident, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard announced the race would not continue, but drivers would honor Wheldon with a five lap salute at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Dan Wheldon is the first driver to die in an on-track crash since the 2006 death of Paul Dana, who was killed during a practice run at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio