Already backed by Andretti's crew, Wheldon to sport boss's number and colors at Texas. INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Oct. 3, 2003) -- When Michael Andretti retired after the Indianapolis 500 on May 25, rookie Dan Wheldon lost one of the most valuable ...
Already backed by Andretti's crew, Wheldon to sport boss's number and colors at Texas.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Oct. 3, 2003) -- When Michael Andretti retired after the Indianapolis 500 on May 25, rookie Dan Wheldon lost one of the most valuable teammates in open-wheel racing. But, he also gained one of the best crews in the Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar Series, as Andretti's supporting cast transitioned over to Wheldon's #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone beginning with the IRL's first stop at Texas Motor Speedway on June 7.
Since then, Wheldon has acquired much more from Andretti -- chiefly knowledge and information -- that has helped make him a familiar sight in and around the top-five week-in and week-out since mid-summer. Now, as the series prepares to return to Texas for the season finale on Oct. 12, he is picking up a few more things from Andretti -- his number, his colors and his sponsor, Team 7-Eleven.
Wheldon, who has driven his red-white-and-black Klein Tools/Jim Beam entry to within four points of the rookie of the year crown, will try to secure that title, as well as his first career win, behind the wheel of the #7 Team 7-Eleven Honda-powered Dallara at Texas.
As a teammate to Tony Kanaan, Wheldon's ride will carry the predominantly green-and- white paint scheme that defined Andretti's car at the start of the season, but will also include a significant Klein Tools and Jim Beam presence.
Wheldon, who has recorded four top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 13 starts, is hoping to add to Team 7-Eleven's impressive 2003 statistical record with his one-race contribution at Texas. In a combined 19 starts by Andretti and Kanaan this year, Team 7-Eleven entries have scored three poles, one win, 10 top-fives, 14 top-10s, and have led 349 laps.
DAN WHELDON, #7 TEAM 7-ELEVEN DALLARA/HONDA/FIRESTONE:
"I've definitely picked up a lot of tangible things from Michael since he got out of the car and it is certainly going to be interesting running his paint scheme and his number. But, most of what he has given me this year is stuff that you can't see or lay your hands on. To be honest, I don't think people can really understand the extent of Michael's knowledge if they haven't worked with him directly.
"As a rookie, you're racing against some of the best drivers in the world and they're all a lot more experienced than you. Michael bridges that gap. He can give you an answer as to why you're experiencing it or how you can make it a little bit better. Sometimes it's just nice to have somebody around that has won a lot of races and isn't pretentious in any way. He is there to help. He is there to help you win and that means a lot to me.
"Obviously, 7-Eleven is a great sponsor of the team and I'm very proud to drive for them in their hometown. I definitely enjoy racing at Texas and feel I can win the race if the stars all line up my way. But, there is a lot at stake for our whole team in Texas. I want to help Tony win the overall championship and I want to win rookie of the year. If I can do all that in one day I'll be very, very happy."
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