Thursday, October 16, 2014

10 Favorite Wheldon Moments

Throughout his great career, there were many moments that made me cherish and appreciate Dan Wheldon. On the third anniversary of his death, I look back 10 of my favorite Dan Wheldon moments:

10) Dan consoles a disgruntled Tony Kanaan at Watkins Glen in 2007
Tony Kanaan and Sam Hornish Jr. got into a disagreement on the track that boiled over into the pits. Sam Hornish Sr. proceeded to shove TK, starting a brawl after Hornish Sr. was tackled by a third party member. Later on (see video below), anyone who watched the video can see one Dan Wheldon, former teammates with Kanaan at Andretti Green Racing, attempting to calm down and console TK. It was a moment that stood out to the caring and humility of Dan.

                    


9) Dan and Danica skirmish
Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick got into an "altercation" following an incident that occurred during the 2007 race at the Milwaukee Mile. Dan was on the outside of Danica going into turn one, when Dan came down on Danica, sending her into a half-spin and causing her damage. After the race, Danica took exception to Dan's on track actions, grabbing his arm and telling him something along the lines of, "Get off my lawn." This incident highlighted the relationship that Dan and Danica had for the first several years of her career.

Dan and Danica "chat" (Photo: SPEED)

8) Dan wins inaugural race in adopted hometown
Dan Wheldon captured the first road course win in the then IRL in his American hometown in St, Petersburg, Florida. Not only did Dan win, but his teammates (Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, and Bryan Herta) finished right behind him, making for a rare 1-2-3-4 finish. This victory would later grow in significance as Dan's love for the city of St. Petersburg grew.

Dan on his way to a win (Photo credit not given)


7) Dan and Robin Miller do the inaugural grid run on NBCSN
Dan was a very funny guy. Left without a ride during the 2011 season, Dan took his talents to Indycar broadcaster NBC Sports Network. The Indycar champ joined longtime Indycar journalist Robin Miller on a Martin Brundle-like grid run before the race. It was nothing short of gold. It was great to watch!

               
                                                              Video: Indy44


6) Dan walks away from 2003 Indianapolis 500
My first Indianapolis I ever attended will forever be highlighted by a frightening one car crash involving Wheldon. Through the North short shoot, Wheldon lost control, turned 90 degrees, and then flipped over onto his lid. After a very frightening crash, Wheldon walked away unscathed. A scary moment and a bullet dodged for Wheldon and other drivers on the track.

Photo: Indycar Media

5) Dan wins first Indianapolis 500
Two years after his frightening crash (see #6 on the list), Dan went on to win the race that he loved so much: The Indianapolis 500. The road was tough, as Dan started 16th. After fighting his way through the field, Dan passed Danica Patrick (who did in fact did not win the 2005 Indianapolis 500) on his way to the win. Wheldon was looked at differently after that win, as many, including myself, saw him as an elite driver.

Photo: USA Today

4) Dan wins at Iowa on his birthday
I was one of the lucky ones who got to see Dan Wheldon win, On his birthday, June 22, 2008 (30th birthday), Dan drove to what eventually amounted to his last win with Chip Ganassi Racing. Iowa Speedway was always one of his favorites, and 2008 was no different. After winning, Dan announced that he would donate all of his winnings to help the relief effort in Iowa after massive floods. What a class act.

Dan Wheldon Dan Wheldon, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda celebrates winning the IRL Indycar Series Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 22, 2008 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.
Photo: Darrell Ingham / Getty Images North America

3) "Who gives a shit"
The video has since disappeared, but there was a clip of Dan being interviewed that was played during the 2005 season, I believe at Texas, where he was asked about his thoughts on all of the Danica Patrick hype. His response? "Who gives a shit?" That made me a fan for life.


2) Dan wins at Homestead, 2006
Dan won a heavy hearted race at Homestead in 2006. The race was held despite the fatal crash that claimed the life of Paul Dana in a practice session earlier that weekend. Dan, driving in his first race with Chip Ganassi Racing, fought for several laps with Helio Castroneves. Wheldon made his move to the outside with the white flag being shown. As they game down the checkers, Dan lurched ahead of Helio, claiming the win in dramatic fashion.

Photo: Washington Post

1) Dan wins the 2011 Indianapolis 500
Easily my favorite Dan Wheldon moment was his last win, which just happened to be at the Indianapolis 500, and which also happened to be the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500. Dan, who wasn't upfront all race, capitalized on the misfortunes of JR Hildebrand to claim the win (that was also the only lap he led). Dan showed so many great emotions and sheer happiness after the win, and it was just amazing. It could not have happened to a nicer guy. A great win for a great driver.

Dan Wheldon Dan Wheldon of England, driver of the #98 William Rast-Curb/Big Machine Dallara Honda, celebrates at the start/finish line after winning the IZOD IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 29, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America


We all lost a little bit of something three years ago. Some were close friends with Dan. Some supported him since his Indycar debut in 2002, And some were just casual fans of his. One thing we can all agree on is Dan's legacy is something that will live on for decades.

Hoping the entire Wheldon got through the day with strength and love from friends and family. We all miss Dan so much, Thank you for your courage in times of hardship.

-Matthew Hickey

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