Two years later: a Dan Wheldon story

Remembering Dan Wheldon, two years later.

It seems I have to write something like this more often than I want to.

With an anniversary of the passing of a fantastic driver today, and the news of the past week, it seems fitting to write it all again.

I remember walking…and walking…and walking. A 2.5 mile oval is a big place. It was my first time to Mecca.

I wasn’t in Saudi Arabia. I was in Indianapolis for the 2011 Indy 500.

I was walking from turn three to the start finish line to get a photo of the winner. I had shot tons of IndyCar in the past, but I didn’t know what to expect at the biggest race of the year.

Car of Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb/Agajanian rolls out
Car of Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb/Agajanian rolls out

Photo by: Covy Moore

I looked up at the scoring pylon, and Danica Patrick was leading. I let out a chuckle and continued on. Shortly after that, I saw the number 4, which meant J.R. Hildebrand was leading. I started getting excited to see a young’n leading the pack at Indy, and my pace increased. That 4 stood on top of the pylon, but the laps winded down.

I knew I wasn’t going to quite make it to the S/F line, so I decided to go grab a different lens in the media centre. On my way up, I heard the crowd get incredibly loud. Something happened.

As I approached the photo centre door, two ladies came tearing out. Both wearing Dan Wheldon shirts. I was baffled.

Hildebrand stuffed his car in the turn 4 wall on the last lap, ad Wheldon made it past just before the start/finish line. I had no idea.

I made my way to victory lane, and was told Wheldon won it. I didn’t know how. Or where, or on what lap. There was chaos. I immediately got right back into work mode, and just started snapping away.

Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb/Agajanian celebrates
Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb/Agajanian celebrates

Photo by: Covy Moore

Five months later, I was sitting with some friends talking about how insane of a race the Las Vegas finale was going to be. Reading the news, and hearing reports from the track, I was concerned about the speeds and size of the track. I told my friends watching with me that if something went wrong, it could turn bad very quickly and it did.

Dan Wheldon died that day. I was glued to the television, texting people I knew at the track, trying to get information.

He was a driver whom I was lucky enough to photograph each time the series came to Canada for a number of years. He always seemed to have a massive smile, grinning from ear to ear. He was a family man, and a racer’s racer. He took a little team that could, and did.

Wheldon passed away only two years ago. I call them heroes, any driver who steps into a race car and goes for a win.

Darren Jack during Dan Wheldon Memorial
Darren Jack during Dan Wheldon Memorial

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

We lost two more this past week. I didn’t know Maria de Villota, or Sean Edwards. I know people who did, and no doubt there are people with my version of the Wheldon story, who have been effected by those deaths.

Motorsport is a community affair. No matter the rivalry on track, or how much you claim to “hate” that driver, we all mourn at losses when it happens.

So let this be the last time for a long time I have to share a story about a hero of old. I wish every driver, mechanic, crew chief, corner work, official and photographer a safe remainder of the 2013 season.

Rest in Peace Maria, Sean, and Dan. Let’s not forget Josh Burton, Jason Leffler, Andrea Mamé and Allan Simonsen. You will not be forgotten.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , General
Drivers Jason Leffler , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Allan Simonsen , Maria de Villota , Sean Edwards , J.R. Hildebrand , Danica Patrick , Andrea Mamé
Teams Bryan Herta Autosport
Article type Commentary
Tags allan simonsen, championship, crash, dan, death, indy 500, jason leffler, josh burton, maria de villota, paul dana, sadness, tragic, wheldon, win