IndyCar Cancels Championship Celebration; Racing Community Remembers Dan Wheldon

The checkered flags fall on a dark day in IndyCar.
Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher

INDYCAR will not hold the 2011 Championship Celebration following the death of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 2005 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon on Oct. 16. The event had been scheduled for Monday, Oct. 17, at Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas.

Information regarding a public memorial for Wheldon will be released at a later date.

Below are comments from members of INDYCAR, the IZOD IndyCar Series and racing community about Wheldon, who suffered fatal injuries in a crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

RANDY BERNARD (CEO, INDYCAR): No words can describe my feelings as I reflect on my memories of Dan.  His infectious smile, bubbly personality and big heart made Dan one of the most caring people I had ever met. You could never ask for a better ambassador to a sport. Dan represented INDYCAR with the upmost respect and integrity.  Dan will not only be immortalized as being a great racer but also a wonderful person.  My prayers are with Susie and his two children in this very difficult time.  

SAM SCHMIDT (Owner, Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "Dan Wheldon was a tremendous competitor, a great racer and an even better person. It was an honor to have him be a part of our team. All of us at Sam Schmidt Motorsports are deeply saddened by his passing. On behalf of everyone at Sam Schmidt Motorsports, our prayers go out to all of his family, especially his wife, Susie, and their two children."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "We lost a good friend.  Everybody in IndyCar Series considered Dan a friend. He was one of those special, special people from the first moment he showed up in IndyCar. And he was kind of the brash, but he was a charmer. Then he became this loving family guy who was still charming, but he had this whole new side to him. I'm just thinking of Susie and the boys. When I think about them I'm struggling to hold it together."

CHIP GANASSI (owner, Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "What can you say? He was such a big presence in our sport and quite a talent.  Today we lost a little bit of Indycar.  He raced here for us for three years, won six races and made many friends - the whole Chip Ganassi Racing organization mourns his passing.  My thoughts and prayers go out to Susie, the boys and the whole Wheldon family."

SCOTT DIXON (Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "Dan is family and I will miss him badly. Such an amazing person and wonderful family man. We will be with Susie, Sebastian and Oliver for whatever they need. I still can't believe it."

GRAHAM RAHAL (Chip Ganassi Racing): "My heart goes out to the Wheldon family. Dan was an incredible champion, a great friend and someone I will always respect and admire. We have truly lost one of the greatest members of our INDYCAR family."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (Chip Ganassi Racing): "We lost a special member of our INDYCAR family. Dan was doing exactly what he wanted and died doing what he loved. Our thoughts are with his wife, Susie, and his two children. There are much bigger plans in life than we can ever hope to understand. Dan will be forever missed."

ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT: "It is with extreme sorrow that we have lost one of our champion drivers today. Dan was an Indy 500 champion and IndyCar Series champion with Andretti Autosport, and one of our closest competitors. Dan brought such enthusiasm and passion to the sport not often seen in motorsports. We will remember Dan's tremendous racing accomplishments with our team as well his infectious personality. We would like to express our deepest sympathy to Dan's family, racing team and friends today. Dan is one of IndyCar's greatest champions."

ERIK BERKMAN (President, Honda Performance Development): "For everyone in the Honda family, this is a day of tragedy and incalculable loss.  For us, Dan was more than a driver. He was a member of the Honda family.  But most of all, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, wife Susie and two young sons.  Dan had a passion for motorsports and a wonderful personality that made him a friend to everyone in the racing community.  His talent and dedication were an inspiration to us all.  We will miss him terribly, and everyone at Honda extends our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and fans across the world."

BOBBY RAHAL (co-owner, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing): "The passing of Dan Wheldon today is a great shame. Dan was a great driver as evidenced by not only his Indianapolis 500 victories, but by his many wins and great performances in the race car. But he was much more than a great driver. He was a good guy, good family man and really seemed to have a bright future not only as a driver but as a television personality as well. We had spoken to him very recently about his prospects as a driver for 2012 with our team and he was very enthusiastic about his future. He will be missed."

ALLEN SIRKIN (President, PVH Corp): "On behalf of everyone at the IZOD brand, our prayers and thoughts are with Dan Wheldon's family. We are very proud to have worked with Dan and consider him a true friend," said. "He was one of the best race car drivers in the world and a wonderful ambassador for the sport. Dan's love of racing was only surpassed by his love and dedication to his family. He will be missed by all."

AL SPEYER (Executive Director, Firestone Racing): "The Firestone Racing team is deeply saddened by the death of Dan Wheldon.  We have very fond memories of celebrating with Dan at Indianapolis following his win this year, and he was a true champion. Recently, we had been working very closely with Dan on the development of the 2012 IndyCar. His passion for the sport was evident every day and he worked endlessly to do the best he could at everything he did.  We extend our sympathies to his family, to his team, and to his many friends and fans.  He was a talented competitor on the track who will be long remembered by all who had the privilege of working with and knowing him."

DAN MEAD (CEO and President, Verizon Wireless): "There are no words to express our sorrow over the loss of Dan Wheldon, a beloved member of the racing family.  We extend our deepest sympathies to Dan's wife and family. They are all in our thoughts."

JEFF BELSKUS (President and CEO, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp.):  "We are incredibly saddened at the passing of Dan Wheldon. He was a great champion of the Indianapolis 500 and a wonderful ambassador for the race, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and all of motorsports. Most importantly, he was a fantastic husband, father and man - a good friend to so many in this sport. His memory will live forever at the Speedway, both through the magnitude of his accomplishments on the track and his magnetism off the track. Our deepest sympathies are extended to his entire family, team and fans."

ROGER PENSKE (owner, Penske Racing): "Today was a sad day for IndyCar and the IndyCar family. Dan was a champion, a wonderful young man and a terrific competitor. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Susie, his children and his entire family."

GEORGE BODENHEIMER (President, ESPN & ABC Sports): "We are very saddened by the tragic passing of Dan Wheldon. He was a great champion both on and off the racetrack and he will be greatly missed. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (Team Penske; three-time Indianapolis 500 winner): "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dan Wheldon's family - what happened today was terrible. It is hard to put into words how sad this is for all us of here. On the track we compete but at the end of the day we are like a big family and today we lost a part of that. I think that the series made a good call to end the race and have the parade laps to honor the life of our fellow driver."

RYAN BRISCOE (Team Penske): "My thoughts are with Dan's family right now. He has been a good friend and a great competitor for many years and I'm greatly saddened by his loss. I do applaud the decision made by the series to call the race and line the cars up for a few parade laps in Dan's memory. It is truly a sad day for all of us."

WILL POWER (Team Penske): "What a tragic loss. I'm devastated that we lost Dan Wheldon today. It was a terrible accident and I feel so bad for Dan's family. My thoughts and prayers are with them. Dan was great champion and a great guy. He will definitely be missed."

CHRIS POWELL (President, Las Vegas Motor Speedway): "All of us here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway are deeply saddened by the death of Dan Wheldon. He was a tremendous race car driver and a great representative for IndyCar racing. Our prayers are with Dan's family as well as the officials and sponsors of IndyCar."

BOB PARSONS (CEO & Founder, GoDaddy): "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dan Wheldon's family and friends on this sad, sad day. All of us in the IndyCar family feel an unexplainable sense of loss. Not just for the sport, but for all who knew Dan Wheldon. Dan was a family man, a father, a husband, a son and a brother. The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner was also a competitor and a colleague ... our deepest condolences go out to all who knew Dan."

JIM MICHAELIAN (President & CEO, Grand Prix Association Of Long Beach): "On behalf of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach family, our hearts are saddened to hear the news of the passing of Dan Wheldon. He was a great representative of our sport and personified what the IZOD IndyCar Series is all about. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Susie, his children and family. He will be sorely missed."

STEVE PAGE (President and general manager, Infineon Raceway): "This is a truly heartbreaking loss.  Dan Wheldon was a terrific driver and a great champion, but overall he was one of the most engaging, intelligent and colorful individuals in our sport.  We were fortunate to work with Dan as a regular promotional partner over the years.  We will miss his competitive drive on the track and his energy and sense of humor in the paddock."

ORIOL SERVIA (Newman/Haas Racing): "This is incredibly sad. We all know this is part of the sport.  Cars are getting safer, tracks are getting safer so fortunately it hasn't happened in a long time. We all had a bad feeling about this place in particular just because of the high banking and how easy it was to go flat and if you give us the opportunity, we are drivers and we try to go to the front -- we race each other hard because that's what we do. We knew if could happen but it's just really sad.  It's so tough to understand when somebody is gone that quickly.  Dan was always a very happy guy; he was always smiling.  He was a funny, great person that touched a lot of people.  He will be missed."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (Newman/Haas Racing): "It's a black day for the sport.  We came in here hoping for a good season finale and ended up losing a very close friend and a very good racing driver.  I think Dan was coming into his second wind as a driver.  He had so much success early on and he was getting back into that.  It's going to be hard next year to climb into the new cars every time knowing that if it wasn't for Dan this thing wouldn't be what it was.  He made such an impact on this sport and will even continue to now.  It's proof that this is still a very dangerous sport.  As hard as we work on the safety side, these things are still very possible.  It's tough to put into words what everybody is feeling.  We're going to have to regroup over the winter and head into the first race next year and race the whole year for Dan because all I said, the new car that we all are going to be blessed with the opportunity to race, a lot of that is as good as it is because of Dan. My thoughts are with Susie and the kids."

GREGG STEINHAFEL (Chairman, President and CEO, Target): "We are deeply saddened by the tragic and sudden death of Dan Wheldon, who drove for Target Chip Ganassi Racing from 2006 to 2008.  He was a special part of the Target family and our heartfelt sympathies go out to Dan's family and friends."

KEITH WIGGINS (Owner, HVM Racing): "The IndyCar community - drivers, teams, fans - arrived at the track today to compete and celebrate a championship. Instead, we lost one of the sport's best. Dan Wheldon was a champion on the track and a great ambassador for the sport. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dan's family. It's in moments like this that you witness the strength of the IndyCar community. Even though we compete against each other week after week, it's like we've lost a member of our own family. We'll go forward into the 2012 season by reflecting on the great memories we have of Dan Wheldon."

RICK HUMPHEY (VP of ZOOM Motorsports): "On behalf of Barber Motorsports Park, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Dan Wheldon.  His willingness to help promote the event each year in Birmingham showed us what kind of an ambassador he was for the sport.  Dan's infectious personality will always be remembered and his smile will truly be missed at Barber Motorsports Park."

EDDIE GOSSAGE (President, Texas Motor Speedway): "On behalf of the entire staff at Texas Motor Speedway, our sincere condolences go out to Dan's wife Susie and their two young boys, Oliver and Sebastian. Dan was a tremendous race-car driver and even more tremendous as a person. I was fortunate to get to know Dan over the years with the series annually visiting Texas Motor Speedway and he always arrived with that infectious personality and charming wit. His outstanding skill in the cockpit and his personality and good nature out of it will be greatly missed by the entire IndyCar community."
IndyCar Cancels Championship Celebration; Racing Community Remembers Dan Wheldon IndyCar Cancels Championship Celebration; Racing Community Remembers Dan Wheldon Reviewed by Admin on Monday, October 17, 2011 Rating: 5