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Entries in Indianapolis 500 (3)

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







ABC News Radio