Celebration of the life of Dan Wheldon salutes fallen hero

Allan Brewer, IndyCar Correspondent

"It was mega man," as Dan Wheldon would have described the public memorial service celebrating his life at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Sunday.

The heartfelt testimonies featured anecdotes about Wheldon from drivers, business associates, racing administrators and musical performers.

The outpouring demonstrated the utmost respect in which the racer was held by the community who watched and revered the bravery on the race course, and the good humor, of the 2011 Indianapolis 500 champion and the 2005 Indy 500 winner and IndyCar series champion.

Just drinking the milk wasn’t good enough.

Jeff Belskus

The 90-minute service began with a prayer, remarks from IndyCar President Randy Bernard and a song sung by female vocalist Reba McEntire. The Band Perry also performed the spiritual 'Amazing Grace'.

“The victories and the accolades didn’t define Dan Wheldon, nor his strong character, his enthusiastic approach to life, and his love of fans, friends and family,” said Bernard. “Dan loved life, and it always showed.”

Jeff Belskus, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President, said Wheldon's "flair and style" left a mark that will stand as Indy 500 tradition.

“Just drinking the milk wasn’t good enough,” Belskus said, referring to Wheldon dumping the bottle of milk all over his head and then the rest of himself in Victory Lane after his two winning performances in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Former Andretti Autosport teammates Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti spoke of their "younger brother" relationship with Wheldon, and his fastidious tidiness. Franchitti sported the infamous white driving shoes Wheldon was known for at the Speedway.

Victory circle: race winner Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb / Agajanian celebrates
Victory circle: race winner Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb / Agajanian celebrates

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

A pre-recorded video message from the Wheldon family offered thanks from Daniel Clive Wheldon, father of the late racer, for the public support received in the wake of the accident and over his son's successful motorsports career.

Recollections of the racer's love of pranks, particularly through bogus text messages and purloined cell phones, brought laughter from the crowd. A candid tribute from Ganassi team manager Mike Hull emphasized Wheldon's keen sense of sportsmanship.

The program concluded with the projection of a video banner from Susie Wheldon that read: "Although the last few days have been unbearable for our family, the overwhelming love and support we have received are rays of sunshine during these dark days. I want to thank everyone for their kind notes, letters, gifts and flowers."

Wheldon was killed in a racing accident October 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the IndyCar 300. He is survived by his wife, Susie, and two young sons. Wheldon was 33.

Winners photoshoot: Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb / Agajanian
Winners photoshoot: Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb / Agajanian

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

The Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund has been established for the financial security of Wheldon's family. The public can make contributions to the fund at:

Fifth Third Private Bank
Attn: Dan Wheldon Family Trust
251 North Illinois St.
Suite 1000
Indianapolis, IN 46204

All Fifth Third Bank branches in the Indianapolis area are accepting contributions in person, which will be routed to the account.

A memorial site, which includes a Facebook link to leave condolences and remembrances, along with photo retrospectives can be found at the website Dan Wheldon Memorial page.

Double checkered flag after the five lap tribute to Dan Wheldon
Double checkered flag after the five lap tribute to Dan Wheldon

Photo by: IndyCar Series

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Series INDYCAR
Tags brewer, crash, ims, indianapolis, wheldon