24-yearold Wheldon -- from Emberton in Buckinghamshire -- is aiming to emulate Graham Hill (father of Damon Hill) who was the last Englishman to win the Indy 500, back in 1966. Speaking at the circuit known as 'the Brickyard' yesterday, Dan ...
24-yearold Wheldon -- from Emberton in Buckinghamshire -- is aiming to emulate Graham Hill (father of Damon Hill) who was the last Englishman to win the Indy 500, back in 1966.
Speaking at the circuit known as 'the Brickyard' yesterday, Dan Wheldon said:'It's been a good month so far. Certainly the Andretti Green Racing Team has given me a good car. The Klein Tools/Jim Beam crew have worked real hard. It's probably atougher month for the mechanics than it is for the drivers. It is certainly a pleasure to be here. As far as the race, I think we're just going to make sure we're around for the last hundred miles because I think as far as the history of this race goes, I think - like somebody said the other day - you don't remember a good first lap, it's the last few that count. So that's what we intend to do, but we intend to be real strong all day, run up at the front and then put ourselves in a position to be rightthere for a win at the end. We'll see how it goes, but we're certainly looking forward to it.'
Dan Wheldon began his career in karting and frequently beat the likes of Jenson Button and Anthony Davidson. By the age of 18 he was runner-up in the British Formula Vauxhall Junior series and two years later, in 1998, he was third in the British Formula Ford Championship and came second in the all-important Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.
But, in 1999, he chose to develop his career by taking the unconventional route of crossing the Atlantic and racing in t he US Formula Ford 2000 Series. Wheldon was an immediate sensation in the USA, winning the series outright and taking the Rookie of the Year title. As a result, he was offered a test drive with PPI Motorsports' CART Toyota Atlantic team which led to a full season with them in 2000. Dan Wheldon won his first race with PPI, came second in the Championship and, again, tookRookie of the Year honours.
Wheldon's Toyota Atlantic successes attracted the attention of PacWest Racing who signed him to replace Scott Dixon in their CART Indy Lights team for the 2001 season. Dan went on to win two races for PacWest, finish second in the series and -- for a third year running -- he was Rookie of the Year.
Last year was tough for Wheldon, following the economic problems brought about by 9/11. However, by the end ofthe year, Dan had made an impressive debut in the Indy Racing League having two strong drives for Panther Racing as team-mate to Sam Hornish Jr. Then the new Andretti Green Racing team signed Wheldon up as their test driver to develop the new Honda engine for this year's IndyCar TM Series.
In April, Wheldon had his first race for Andretti Green Racing when he deputised for the injured Dario Franchitti in Japan and finished seventh.
And now, today, Dan Wheldon will start the Indianapolis 500 from fifth place -- on the second row of the grid -- having been highly impressive in the practice and qualifying sessions at 'the Brickyard'.
Today's Indianapolis 500 starts at 11am (local time). Television viewers in England can see the race live on Sky Sports 3, starting from 4.30 pm, or on British Eurosport, starting from 12.15 am tomorrow morning. Edited highlights will be shown on Five early onWednesday morning, at 12.25 am.