Dan Wheldon Started Racing Go-Karts When He Was 4

Dan Wheldon's crash killed a budding philanthropist.

Oct. 17, 2011— -- Race car driver Dan Wheldon was known for his high octane skill on the track that allowed him to twice win the Indy500, but was less well known for being a devoted family man and a budding philanthropist.

Wheldon, who died in a fiery crash in Las Vegas Sunday, began racing go-karts in his native Emberton, England, when he was 4, and competed in kart races throughout his childhood and adolescence.

In 1999, he moved to the United States to pursue racing professionally. Wheldon won the "Rookie of the Year" title in his second IndyCar Series ride, in 2002, when he won a spot on the track after Michael Andretti retired.

Wheldon, 33, stayed with IndyCar in order to continue racing the Indy 500, which he won twice, in 2005 and 2011. He was only the 18th driver in the history of the race to win it more than once.

He was also a tad superstitious, according to information released by his management company, DP Sports Management. Wheldon would traditionally tap his car on the nose three times before entering on the non-gear stick side of the vehicle.

Outside of racing, Wheldon lived a quiet family life in St. Petersburg, Fla., with his wife and two young children.

Before he became a father for the first time in 2009, Wheldon told People magazine that his expected son, Sebastian, would want to be proud of his father.

"He's going to want his dad to be a winner, so I have to make sure that happens as quick as possible," Wheldon said.

He and his wife, long-time personal assistant Susie Behm, welcomed their second son, Oliver, just seven months ago.

"There's times where you do doubt yourself a little bit," Wheldon said after this year's Indy win. "Through all of this, she's been incredibly supportive and she understands that this is all I've ever done. Racing is all I've ever done. She knows that racing creates the personality in me that she loves. So she was desperate to get me back out the house and in a race car. It's good to deliver for her, my two boys, my family back home, too."

Later that year, he released a photo book he called Lionheart, a coffee table book that he described as "almost like a photo biography from my career in IndyCars up until this point." He spent years editing the book, which included dozens of photos of his life away from the track, including images from his wedding.

"I wanted it to have a lot of my input," Wheldon said last year. "Obviously, it's a reflection of me."

"There's a lot of my wedding in there," Wheldon said. "I wanted there to be a lot of photos of my wife. She was the most beautiful bride on her wedding day the world had ever seen."

The racing star also raised money for several charities, was a spokesman for the National Guard and its education-awareness programs, and most recently began raising money for Alzheimer's research. His mother was diagnosed with an early onset form of that disease in 2009.

He also liked loud music, being a fan of the English psychedelic band The Verve.

Through eight seasons of racing, Wheldon posted 134 career starts, a majority of which he finished in the top ten. He also continued racing go-karts while not doing Indy races.

Wheldon worked with IndyCar engineers to test-drive and analyze new competition cars for safety on the track.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.