Monday, October 17, 2011

Goodbye Dan Wheldon


Like many of you, I was shocked and sadden to hear of Dan Wheldon’s passing yesterday.  I had just made it home from a wonderful weekend camping out at Charlotte when I went to check the NFL scores on espn.com.  One of the side headlines said something about Wheldon being injured in a crash.  With how safe racing has become, I didn’t think much of it, assuming it he might have broken a hand or something.  I put off reading it until I checked all the scores.  Minutes later, the websites homepage had updated their main picture to show the horrific wreck with the headline, “Dan Wheldon Dies.” I kept saying to myself, “No, no, no,” and immediately clicked on the link to read about it.  The story had not been updated to say he died, rather it was still saying how he had been hurt in the wreck.  For a brief second, I remained optimistic that it was an error and the website, and that he was still alive.  I went to Twitter to confirm the news I was hoping was not true – Dan Wheldon, age 33, had died. 

I don’t follow IndyCar the way I do NASCAR.  There are few drivers in that series that I actually hold an opinion and Wheldon was one of them.  From his early days at Andretti, where he came off as a brash, young driver from England, to this year, a veteran of the sport who had matured and learned not to take anything for granted.  It was especially evident when he won his second Indy 500 this May, as it was easy to tell how much more humbling this one was for him than his first back in 2005.  He had gained my respect through the years to become one of my favorite drivers. 

My favorite memory of Dan is last April at Barber Motorsports Park shortly after the IndyCar race.  Keep in mind that there is much more access to get close to the drivers here as opposed to a Cup race.  It was not even an hour after the race had ended and I was on the tram headed back to my car.  As we made our way to the backside of the track near the driver motor homes, I saw Wheldon walking down the paddock, with his wife by his side, holding her hand.  That’s all there was to it.  What made it so cool was at that moment, I didn’t see him as a driver, but as a person.  The world lost a fantastic racer in Dan Wheldon yesterday, but his two sons have lost their father, and his wife Suzie, has lost her husband. 

Rest in peace Dan, you will be greatly missed. 

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