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Dan Wheldon Dies At Age 33, At The Las Vegas Indy 300, Oct. 16, 2011

Updated on September 10, 2014
Wheldon at the Indy 500, in 2007
Wheldon at the Indy 500, in 2007 | Source
Car driven by Dan Wheldon in the Indy 500 in 2007.
Car driven by Dan Wheldon in the Indy 500 in 2007. | Source
The crash at the Las Vegas Indy 300, October 16, 2011.
The crash at the Las Vegas Indy 300, October 16, 2011. | Source

A tragic loss for the racing world and for his family and many friends....

The weekend of October 16, 2011, the Las Vegas Indy 300 was held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and ended up making national news headlines. We actually were thinking of going to this race, but other plans came up and we ended up not going. We were downtown walking through a casino when we first heard the news that the race had been stopped and that one of the driver's had been killed in a horrific 15 car fiery crash.

That man was Dan Wheldon, age 33, a driver from England who moved to the United States in 1999 at the age of 21 to pursue a racing career here in Indy racing. There were more opportunities here in the U.S. than there were in his native England, so he made the overseas move.

Now, I don't know a whole lot about racing, but I can say that I felt a deep sense of empathy for the beautiful wife that he left behind and for their two small sons, Sebastian and Oliver. I also had two young sons at one time (who are both grown men now) and a husband who was in a career that could be considered a dangerous one.

My husband was in the Air Force when our boys were born, and he was a flier. While flying is not nearly as dangerous as driving a car in Indy races, there was still an inherent danger to what he did. I guess you try not to think of the dangers at the time, but they were always there, and always lingered in the back of your mind.

He Was Survived By Family Members

I have read that Dan Wheldon is survived by two brothers and a sister, Holly, along with both of his parents (who still reside in England), as well as his wife, Susie and two young sons, Sebastian and Oliver. I can only hope and pray for all of his family, especially those two little boys who have lost their father at such a young age, I pray that angels will watch over them and guide them as they grow up.

If something like this does happen, you find the strength deep within you, you dig in, and you find a way to get through it. I'm sure this is what will happen to Dan Wheldon's beautiful wife and their two young sons.

So, although I don't know a whole lot about Indy racing, I do know what it is like to be a mother of two young boys with a father who is in a dangerous occupation, and I fully empathize with Susie. I guess that's why I felt compelled to write a tribute to Dan Wheldon. May he rest in peace, and fly with the angels.

Dan Wheldon was born on June 22nd, 1978 in Emberton, England. He started out by racing go-karts at the age of 4 and was hooked from then on. His father was a go-kart racer, and his mother was a timer at the local track. He grew up around racing and loved it. He was an Indy car rookie in 2003, and two years later, he went on to win the Indy 500 in 2005, and he won it again in May of 2010 ~ a two time Indy 500 winner. Superstitious when he was to drive in a race, he would tap his race car three times before climbing into it on the non-gear stick side.

Wheldon was a very well-liked driver among the other driver's, and although he sometimes was referred to as brash... he really had a fierce competitive nature which made him appear that way, but he was also called a "charmer" by fellow racer Dario Franchitti. Dario went on to say about Dan Wheldon, after he had married, "He became this loving family guy. He was still charming, but he had this whole new side to him."

Danica Patrick was also a friend... even though the two of them had a rather heated exchange in Milwaukee in 2007, they were still friends with one another. This race, the Las Vegas Indy 300, was to be Danica Patrick's last race in Indy cars, before moving to NASCAR. And in an ironic twist, Dan Wheldon was to take over for Patrick in IndyCar for the 2012 season. The papers had been drawn up and were to be signed after the race. Danica was clearly distraught and very emotional after being told that Dan Wheldon had not survived the crash.

Dan Wheldon had sat out this season, lacking the financial backing to race this year. Instead, he focused on being a wonderful father to his newborn son, Oliver, and his other son, Sebastian. He also enjoyed spending some quality time with his family.. and he also did some safety testing for cars that were to come out in 2012. He jokingly referred to himself as a "test dummy" for the new safety features that were to premier in 2012.

Wheldon also had other activities outside of racing. He raised money for several charities and was a spokesman for the National Guard and it's educational programs. He was also involved in raising money for Alzheimer's awareness, since his Mother had been diagnosed with an early onset form of the illness in 2009.

In 2010, he visited Lake Placid, N.Y. for the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Challenge. He took a run down the icy chute, and ended up getting ejected from the back of a two man sled in a crash! He was unhurt, and hopped to his feet and took a bow. He later said of that day, "Us IndyCar drivers, we like to go fast."

Later in 2010, he released a photo book called "LionHeart," the title referring to Richard LionHeart I, who was a great military leader and warrior in England back in 1189. This was also referring to his own "never give up" style of racing. It is a picture book that chronicles his life in racing, and up to his wedding ~ the book also includes wedding photo's because as he had said about his wife "She was the most beautiful bride on her wedding day the world had ever seen."

The world lost an incredibly multi-faceted, talented young man that tragic day. A race car driver, but also a loving husband, father, brother, son and friend to many.... he will sadly be missed.

Dan Wheldon ~ June 22, 1978 - October 16, 2011

A Poem That I've Been Reminded Of

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung

Reached out my hand, and touched the face of God....."

~John Gillespie Magee Jr. ~ "High Flight"

Three Years Later, An Update...

Recently, in 2014, I read an article that Dan Wheldon's youngest sister, Holly, has kept in contact with racing fans and with the organizations that were a big part of her brother's life. She regularly keeps people updated through social media venues like Twitter and is said to have over 12,000 followers ~ This is more followers than some of the professionals who are involved in racing have!

Some have wondered if it would be painful to be involved with these organizations, because of that involvement bringing back memories. Others have said that keeping an involvement in racing after losing a loved one is a comfort. These are the people who became friends during the racing years, and who still are friends years later. When a tragedy like this strikes, it is always a comfort to have friends nearby.


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    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much, SusieQ42, it really was sad watching the 5 lap tribute. It didn't fully hit me until much later when I saw a picture of his beautiful wife and two darling little boys... then a flood of emotions... I'm sure he didn't wake up that day thinking it was his last day, when these things happen so suddenly, it is just such a shock.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      We watched the race but I didn't actually see the crash. I was here on my computer at that time, of course. My husband did see it then we watched the 5 lap tribute to Dan. It really was sad and it was hard to keep from crying, as most people on TV were. Beautiful tribute to Dan Wheldon! Thank you.

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Very true, doodlebugs. He was so very young. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

    • doodlebugs profile image


      7 years ago from Southwest

      He was one heck of a driver. He will be missed by his family, friends and fans.


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