The auto racing world is mourning the loss of one of its most talented drivers and charming personalities.
Dan Wheldon, the defending Indianapolis 500 champion, died in a crash during a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday. The 33-year old Wheldon was involved in a multi-car pileup on the eleventh lap of the season finale for the IZOD racing circuit. Officials cancelled the remainder of the race after the crash.
Tributes from all across the globe have been pouring in to honor the British open-wheel racer. The first one came from his fellow Indy car drivers, who returned to the track a couple hours after the accident to drive in formation in a five-lap tribute to their fallen colleague. Many of the drivers had tears in their eyes during and after the tribute.
In addition to the words of condolence issued by members of the racing community, other high-profile individuals also expressed their sympathy either through statements or tweets. Celebrities such as basketball star LeBron James, soccer player Hope Solo, former baseball manager Tommy Lasorda, actress Alyssa Milano, TV personality Robin Leach, sportscaster Erin Andrews, and members of the rock band Motley Crue all openly mourned Wheldon’s tragic death.
Two of the most heartfelt tributes came from Hollywood stars who also had ties to the racing world. Justin Timberlake, an acquaintance of the driver whose clothing line William Rast was a sponsor of Wheldon’s racing team, offered his prayers and thoughts to the Briton’s wife and two children. And Ashley Judd, who is married to Indy Car racer Dario Franchitti, referenced a John Donne poem in her statement of sorrow and support.
Naturally, people in Wheldon’s home country of England are also grieving over the passing of their fellow countryman. His memory was celebrated by the likes of soccer star Wayne Rooney and golfer Ian Poulter. In addition, British broadcaster Sky Sports 2 aired a documentary on October 20 entitled Dan Wheldon: A Tribute which reflected on the life and achievements of the Emberton native.
But the sad death of Wheldon was a blow to everyday auto racing fans as well. A large number of them created a makeshift memorial for the Indy 500 champ at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Notes, flowers, checkered flags, and U.S. and British flags were displayed all over the track’s main gate. Some even left half-gallon jugs of milk, which refers to the annual post-Indy 500 tradition of the champion drinking milk in the winner’s circle.
We at SafeAuto also want to express our deepest regrets and heartfelt prayers to the family, friends, and colleagues of Dan Wheldon. He will forever be remembered as a skilled driver, a gregarious character, and a loving husband and father.