Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dan Wheldon (1978-2011)

Devastating, tragic, heart-breaking are just some of the words that fail to describe the events that occurred at Las Vegas during the running of the Las Vegas Indy 300, the season finale.

During Lap 13 a fifteen car crash involving several big name drivers claimed the life of 2011 Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon from “unsurvivable injuries”. Although it took two hours for the announcement to be officially made, the mood in the paddock was somber and tense.

When the news fell and cameras rolled on the agony in Wheldon’s competitors’ faces, it was difficult to find a dry eye. At the end of the day the drivers decided unanimously to drive five laps three wide in tribute to their fallen friend. His number stood atop the pylon and during the parade laps “Amazing Grace” played over the sound system.

Wheldon was a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 but was not a regular in this 2011 Izod IndyCar Series. Because he was not currently running in the series he was eligible to run the race and vie for a $5 million prize.

Open wheel racing is dangerous. Racing is dangerous. There is no one to blame; an accident claimed the life of this young driver. Ironically the Izod IndyCar Series is debuting a new car for the 2012 Season with even more safety measures in place, but even those modifications would not have ensured Dan Wheldon’s safety in this accident. In this sport danger exists and that is a known factor to the drivers. Dan Wheldon died doing what he loved to do.

I have never ended a piece I’ve written with somebody else’s words, but I came across this on a Facebook/Google + status from a man who goes by the name Racer 187. His eloquence is unparalleled in this subject. As I leave you with Racer 187’s words I say a heartfelt goodbye and thank you to Dan Wheldon and wish his family strength and peace in the coming years.

Racer 187 wrote:

I can't cry for a man who died doing what he loved the most. But I do cry for the son who will barely remember his father, the son who was too young to remember his father and the wife whose life will have a gaping hole in it where her lover, partner and friend once stood. Rest in Peace, Dan. Susie, Sebastian and Oliver, my tears, thoughts and prayers are for you and your loss. I am so sorry.

Dan Wheldon (1978-2011)


  1. Back when I worked in Grand Am, there was a driver who had "We are here for a good time, not for a long one" painted on his helmet. I always felt it was appropriate, but I fell short of living it.

    At 40, I think about death a lot. Not so much the actual "dying" part, but what sort of hell God will unleash on me leading up to that end. My biggest fear is that it will be Alzheimer's disease or something equally demoralizing; who knows. I have learned to never underestimate God so perhaps it is best not to speculate.

    I wish I could say I am solid in my faith and I know what awaits me, but I am not and I don't. All I see as the years wind down is my being ripped away from a wife I will never EVER be done loving. When I see an event like today, I don't feel sadness but rather resentment. What makes this entertainers death any more sad than the elderly man who dies, alone in a nursing home where he was left by his family because he was too much work. More spectacular, sure, I will give it that. More sad or deserving of our attention, no way.

    This event, tragic as it was, makes me think more of those who will die tonight without so much as a tear from anyone. Let alone a 5 lap parade of race cars and private planes to pick up thier family.

  2. I can understand Racer's sentiments but can't agree with them. Racing was Dan's career & he loved that. I'll bet that he loved spending time with his family more than he loved racing. That he died in a job he loved doesn't make it easier to bear.

  3. I respect your opinion, Cheryl, but if we asked Dan what his top ten list of things to do on his last day on earth, I would bet that kissing his wife and kids and getting in a racecar would be on it... but I do see it from your perspective as well: if he was also asked to trade one more day in a racecar for kissing his wife and kids one more time, he would probably choose the kisses.