Dan Wheldon, 1978-2011

Posted: October 16, 2011 in IndyCar
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It is with sadness that I record the death of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, who passed away today from injuries sustained in the IndyCar World Championship, the final race of this year’s IndyCar Series.

A racing driver chooses their life on the tacit understanding that it takes only one moment to bring their journey to an end.  Dan Wheldon’s had seen him match wits with Jenson Button in the British junior formulae, moving to America when he and his family were unable to raise the funds needed to continue racing at home.  Rising through the ranks of US open-wheel racing, Dan was IndyCar Series rookie of the year in 2003 and series runner-up the following year, claiming the title and a win at the Indianapolis 500 in 2005.  A second title would elude the Englishman, but the 500 fell to him again this year in dramatic fashion.  In a one-off drive during a year spent developing and testing the new IndyCar chassis for 2012, the only lap he led all day was the final lap of the race.

When Wheldon was announced as the driver for a special one-off promotion, in which a $5 million prize pot would be split equally between the driver and a prize draw entrant if a driver without a regular ride could start last in Las Vegas and come through to win, the racing world stood to attention.  With Dan at the wheel, the impossible became an outside shot.

In the first 10 laps of the race, he’d climbed 10 spots from his 34th starting slot.  On lap 11, in a multi-car accident not of his making, his journey reached a tragically premature end.  There’s nothing to be gained by speculating on what might have happened next, both today and in the coming seasons, but it’s beyond doubt that the loss of such a fine driver and fundamentally decent man will be keenly felt.  For my part, as a long-distant fan who was never fortunate enough to meet him, I can tell you only that I hadn’t cried watching a motor race for 17 years.

Daniel Wheldon leaves a wife, Susie, and two young sons, Sebastian and Oliver.  To them, his family and his friends, I offer my sincere condolences.

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