16 October 2011

Dan Wheldon (1978– 2011)

I'm not a real big Indy car fan, I haven't kept up with the sport since the days of Danny Sullivan and Arie Luyendyk. But the tragedy today has really got me down. Maybe it's the two young sons Dan Wheldon left behind, just 2 1/2yrs and 7 months. Or maybe the fact that Wheldon was universally liked and respected among the drivers, always smiling, always joking. Just 33 years old, winner of this year's Indy 500 but without a ride much of the season, he had just this morning signed a contract to replace Danica Patrick next season, and today was supposed to be a big opportunity for Wheldon and a lucky fan to split $5mil if he could win. Instead, the day saw one of the worst crashes in open wheel racing I can recall, and now two little kids will grow up without their Dad.

So many of the drivers said the track was too fast, the cars were too even, the racing too tight. In NASCAR, you can rub fenders, tap bumpers. But in an Indy car, that nudge launches the cars like an airplane. Into the catch fence. And in an instant a likeable, friendly, talented young man is taken away from his friends, his team, and his family.

While looking for the pic, I found this article, written just two short years ago. To all the drivers we love to watch; hug your family tonight.

Godspeed, Dan Wheldon (22 June 1978 – 16 October 2011).

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