On This Day: Remembering Wheldon

On this day two years ago, October 16th, 2011, we lost a champion, a father, a husband, a friend, a legend, and a terrific human being in Dan Wheldon. Racing in the season finale for Sam Schmidt Motorsports at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Dan started last in a challenge in which he was the only contestant. If he started from last and won the race, he would win $2.5 million and a lucky fan would also win $2.5 million. It all went terribly wrong on lap 11, when a massive crash collected 15 of 34 cars entered in the race. Immediately, something did not feel right. Dan was removed from his car and sent to the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, where he was later pronounced dead. The news shocked racing fans and those who knew Dan well from around the world. Here are some quotes from some people who knew him best:

"Everybody in Indycar died a little today." -Chip Ganassi

"It's a black day for the sport. We came here hoping for a good season-finale and ended up losing a very close friend and a very good racing driver." -James Hinchcliffe

"Everybody in Indycar considered Dan a friend. You saw what the reaction was. Dan was one of those special, special people, from when he first showed up at Indycar." -Dario Franchitti

"On behalf of everyone at Sam Schmidt Motorsports, our prayers go out to all of his family, especially his wife, Susie, and their two children." -Sam Schmidt

"Dan was always a very happy guy; he was always smiling. He was a funny, great person that touched a lot of people. He will be missed." -Oriol Servia

"He was a good guy, good family man and really seemed to have a bright future, not only as a driver, but as a television personality as well." -Bobby Rahal

The news shocked the world. Everyone remember all the great times spent with Dan. He is missed.

On a personal note, the only time I talked to Dan was at Iowa in 2011, when he was commentating for Versus. We talked for about five minutes, and then my parents and I walked back to the stands. While we were walking back, the golf kart carrying Dan passed us. We all yelled "HEY DAN!" and he gave us the worlds biggest grin and waved to us. That would be the last time we would ever see Dan.

Three days after I started this blog, Dan died. I wasn't quite sure what I was doing or what I had planned on accomplishing with the blog. I was just running with it, doing things a bit half-ass so to speak. Once he died, I was torn up inside. That's when I started taking this blogging thing seriously. I can't quite explain why, I just felt like I owed Dan something for being such a terrific human being. I started writing to the best of my ability in tributes to him following Las Vegas, and it has subsequently transferred over to my non-DW blog articles. I hope I have made him proud. RIP brother.

Dan Wheldon - Indianapolis 500 Mile Race
Photo: Jonathan Ferry

-Matthew Hickey