Remembering Dan Wheldon

There isn’t much more to say about the man that was Dan Wheldon. Many amazing columns have been written by people far more skilled than I. And honestly, what more is there to be added? October 16th will always be a day to remember Danny Boy. I miss him, and we miss him and the sport misses him. I have collected all of the remembering Dan Wheldon work I created over the last year into one last post. I found it difficult to write anything that would say more than what has already been said. Read the articles, browse the pictures from the impromptu memorial at The Speedways gate, and remember Dan, and all of the fallen heroes tragically lost over the past 100 years.

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Dan Wheldon was more than a racecar driver.

I, along with hundreds of other fans, had the privilege to meet one of the nicest men the Indycar paddock had ever seen. A man who, no matter how hurried, would stop and sign every hat, picture, t-shirt and model car thrust into his more than willing hands. A man, no matter how downtrodden, would pose for a seemingly endless amount of pictures with fans; all while flashing that beautiful white smile.

Dan Wheldon; a brother, a father, a son and a husband. More than just a man; a hero, a competitor, a champion. Godspeed Lionheart, you will always be remembered.

Originally published in Podium Magazine October issue

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As a fan, I did not know Dan Wheldon, personally, at all. When he came into the series in 2003, my initial thoughts on him were not many. In the early years of his career, Dan didn’t do much too really make himself stand out to me. He was another, tough competitor but he never resonated and drew me into his corner.  That is, until the 2009 Indy 500. It was another empty Tuesday during the first week of practice. I only work about 15 minutes from the track, so after clocking out at 3:30 I would hustle over and catch a few hours of action before the sessions ended at six. I was standing behind, his then team, Panther Racing’s pits while he was doing his final debriefing with his engineer right before the close of practice.

A young couple with a, what looked to be, a three year old little girl was also watching the pits near me hoping to snag a moment of Dans time. They called to Dan to get some autographs. When he came over, the cute little toddler stated talking to Wheldon and handed him an animal cracker in the process. Dan, being the consummate professional that he is, talked more with that cute little toddler than he did with her parents. He even pretended to eat the animal cracker because it didn’t look like that little girl would relent in guarenteeing Dan took the cracker.

He looked rushed but spent a good five minutes with the small family before hopping on a cart and getting whisked away into the depths of the garage. I had never seen anything like that before. Dan, not only, made a three year old a fan of indycar, but also made me a huge fan of his. I hung around his pit in the afternoons during the following sessions and witnessed moments like this every time he was out of the car.

Dan Wheldon was the fans dream and more than happy to oblige. At Kentucky in 2011, my roommate really wanted to snag his autograph. We found him as he was stepping out of the Verse sky lair after his prerace interview. Obviously hurried, he not only stopped to sign his hat but made conversation and did not appear to be in any kind of rush to brush the fans off. He signed a few more autographs, shook a few more hands and headed back to the garages.

Originally posted to anotherindycarblog 10/16/11

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The Monday following the accident, I headed out to IMS to take in the impromptu memorial that was taking shape at the main gate. Emotion was palpable in the air, the four big news crews were set up for news shots and Donald Davidson highlighted Dan’s career for each of them. I made a few new friends and met a twitter buddy face to face for the first time, but it was a sorrow filled afternoon on the grounds of IMS. I had initially planned to only take a few pictures but got so caught up in reading the wonderful words fans had written that I could not stop snapping photos. The resolution on all of these is good enough to easily make out the hand written notes with no captions needed.

Originally posted to anotherindycarblog 10/17/11 (Full size pictures can be found in original post here)

Eric Hall

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