Dan Wheldon celebrated his 2nd Indy 500 win last May - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
2011 Centennial Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon is gone, but he's certainly not forgotten. Tributes continue to come through for the Briton, whose effervescent personality endeared him to fans and to the racing family in which he was such a large part.
Every year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway the racetrack celebrates the prior year's victor in a variety of different ways, normally featuring that person's face on the race day ticket. This year the life of two-time Indy 500 winner Wheldon will be honored throughout the race meeting.
Wheldon earned his second "500" win in the most dramatic fashion last May, leading only once in the 200-lap contest, from the fourth turn to the checkered flags. Driving for Bryan Herta Autosport through a technical alliance with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Wheldon brought the No. 98 William Rast-Curb/Big Machine Dallara/Honda/Firestone bright orange and white entry past crashed JR Hildebrand to drink winner's milk for the second time; he first won the race in 2005 while driving for Andretti Green Racing.
The salute to Wheldon, a charismatic driver who went out of his way to be amiable with fans at the Brickyard racetrack began when his restored race car went on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum May 16. Restored by Sam Schmidt Motorsports, the car remains on display at the museum through Sunday, May 20.
The 2011 winning car will also be displayed on Saturday, May 26 in the IMS Pagoda Plaza during Legends Day Honoring Roger Penske presented by Shell.
On race day there will be a variety of tributes to Wheldon, who died in a non-survivable 15-car crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last October 16.
All fans entering the track on race day will receive a pair of white cardboard sunglasses - white sunglasses were a favorite of the fashionable Wheldon - to wear in tribute on the parade lap, on lap 26 and lap 98, recognizing his car numbers from those two winning Indy 500 races. Fans are encouraged to wear their own white sunglasses during those laps, as well.
Bryan Herta, co-owner of the team for which Wheldon drove last year will drive the 2011 winning car for a lap of honor during pre-race ceremonies, shortly before the command to start engines.
Wheldon will be featured on the race day technical inspection stickers affixed to all cars in the field.
"Dan embodied the spirit of the Indianapolis 500 and Indianapolis Motor Speedway like few who have ever raced here," admitted Jeff Belskus, IMS Corporatin president and CEO. "He loved this race and this special place so much, and his fans and everyone associated with 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing' returned that affection with equal passion. We're honored," he said, "to pay tribute to Dan - an incredible father, husband, friend and driver - through these activities this year. But rest assured, he will be remembered forever at IMS."
Although it's bound to be extremely difficult for her, Wheldon's wife Susie will participate in the Public Drivers Meeting on Saturday, May 26, receiving husband's Champion of Champions ring for his 2011 Indianapolis 500 victory.