Fans and Friends Gather to Remember Dan Wheldon

Oct 23, 2011 6:26pm

 

gty dan wheldon jt 111023 wblog Fans and Friends Gather to Remember Dan Wheldon

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Friends and fans of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon gathered today in Indianapolis to remember the driver, only a week after the 33-year-old died in a fiery 15-car crash during the 11th lap of a race in Las Vegas.

Wheldon’s wife of three and a half years, Susie, laughed and wiped away tears as Dan’s closest confidantes paid tribute to their friend, who they said had a one-of-a-kind personality.

“It’s just me being me, baby!” said Jeff Belskus, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, summing up Wheldon’s unique flair.

One of Wheldon’s managers, Mickey Ryan, remembered a fun night out on the town in 2005 after Wheldon won his first Indianapolis 500.

The only problem? Wheldon was scheduled to begin doing media interviews at 6 a.m. the next day. Although Wheldon’s posse partied into the wee hours of the morning, he was up in time for his first interview — “Good Morning America.”

Despite a massive hangover, Ryan said Wheldon “nailed it like a pro.”

But later in the day, the lack of sleep caught with to Wheldon, who fell asleep while he was waiting to do a radio phone interview.

But his 2011 Indy 500 victory was different.

“It was all about the family,” said Wheldon’s other manager, Adrian Sussmann. “He simply had to have a trophy and pace car for each of his boys!”

Wheldon leaves behind two sons, Sebastian, 2, and Oliver, 8 months.

“Dan understood the racing character,” Belskus said. “His heart belonged to the sport he loved.”

Wheldon, who was born in Emberton, England, began racing go-karts at the age of four, after his father introduced him to competitive racing.

He moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1999 and joined the IndyCar series in 2003.  Aside from his two Indianapolis 500 wins, Wheldon posted impressive stats as his career revved up. In eight full seasons, he  had132 career starts, collected 26 top-three finishes, 93 top-10 finishes and five pole positions, and also won the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

Wheldon was laid to rest in his adopted hometown of St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday.

ABC News’ Candace Smith contributed to this report.

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