“A Dan Wheldon kind of day;” Drivers reminisce about late racer in new book

Big Race - INDY

Today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would have been a “Dan Wheldon kind of day.”

“A sunny day here, 100th running, he’d have been loving it,” three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti said. “He’d have been in his element, bouncing along.”

Few drivers loved the Indy 500, IMS and race fans like Wheldon, and stories about that endure even though the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion has been gone nearly five years.

Those stories, and many more, are living on through a new book called “Lionheart – Remembering Dan Wheldon,” by Andy Hallbery and Jeff Olson. The book is on sale at the IMS Museum and various gift shops around the Speedway for $74.99, with proceeds benefitting the Dan Wheldon Foundation and Alzheimer’s Association, two causes close to Wheldon’s family. After the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, the book will be available worldwide via amazon.com.

Wheldon family members, former teammates Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon, fellow competitors, motorsports journalists, photographers and many more friends share their personal and emotional stories in the book, which paints a full picture of the Brit from his childhood through his racing career. That career included the 2005 Verizon IndyCar Series title and wins in the ’05 and ’11 Indianapolis 500. Wheldon died in October ’11 at age 33 after a racing accident at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“One thing he always cared about was his fans; he did a lot better job than the three of us combined here,” Kanaan said with a smile and a nod toward fellow champions Dixon and Franchitti. “Taking more time, leaving the garages earlier to sign, to interact. He liked that stuff and he always said he loved the attention.”

Dixon shared memories about when he and Wheldon were teammates at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. The “Iceman” had the more relaxed approach to racing while Wheldon was the one writing pages upon pages of debriefing notes after practice.

“There were so many different things about Dan that were so likable on and off the track,” Dixon said. “Going further into our relationship, with having young kids together and spending family time together, it was fun to see how he changed.”

The contributions in “Lionheart” venture outside the INDYCAR world as well, from Formula One drivers Rubens Barrichello and Mark Webber to NASCAR stars Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson. For more information on the book, visit Lionheartbook.com.

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