Big Bend, WI (October 17, 2011) – You keep telling yourself the pain will go away. Nearly everyone has lost friends, loved ones, parents and grandparents. It’s a part of life. However, the pain does goes away.

Having grown up in the sport, I witnessed death at a early age. In 1973, I watched on television as my favorite driver crawled from the flaming shell of what was left of his car. I vividly recall the cloudy day I rode my bike home and opening the door and my mom telling me that Swede Savage died from injuries from that accident. I remember spending time with the first Indy Car driver I met, Johnny Hubbard. Here was a driver who took time to answer my inane questions and didn’t seem to mind my company. Sadly, he was dead a little over a year later, killed in a disgusting Eastern modified racing accident.

I grew up in awe of these drivers, they were bigger than life. Tom Sneva showing my dad and me how the flash burns he received at Indianapolis in his wild accident in the “500” neatly burned around the wristwatch he was wearing. My father showing his racing films at our house and noticing the scars on Bay Darnell’s hands he received in the accident that tragically killed Ronnie Duman. Reading and later having my father tell me of Jim Hurtubise and how he recovered from near-fatal burns at Milwaukee and raced again. However, anybody who interacts in motorsports long enough will lose someone they know. Sneva, Darnell and Herk were lucky to survive, others did not. My father lost several friends such as Jack Hagemeyer and Ron Lux. David Hobbs candidly told me the pain his wife Margaret and he endured when Douglas Revson was killed a formula three accident in 1967, the likeable Douglas spent the previous summer staying at their home in England. Tony Kanaan, Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti to this day miss their close friend, Greg Moore.

Yesterday the entire racing community lost a friend. Daniel Clive Wheldon. Wheldon was killed in a hideous 15-car accident in Las Vegas on Sunday. Graham Rahal on his twitter account said that the entire IndyCar field is a big family. The circuit travels together, and works together. Having worked on both the media and promotion side of the sport I’ve interacted with most drivers on the circuit. If there is one thing I wish the regular fan could see, is how hard drivers in motorsports, whether it’s NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA, etc. work to promote the sport. Drivers are continually asked to make appearances for the sport. Whether it’s a 6am radio show or charity dinner at 9pm the same night. Dan was one, if not the best at this. His personality made you at ease and your job that much easier. No one word answers, he understood the sport and its history and was able to articulate it in his snappy English accent. His passion for the sport and for the Indianapolis 500 ran deep and made many Dan Wheldon fans because of it.

I feel lucky, because my wife Susan and I had several social encounters with Dan and later his wife Susie through a mutual friend, Larry Fazzari. It became a tradition on the Milwaukee IndyCar weekend, to spend Friday and Saturday evening at the Calderone Club in downtown Milwaukee. A who’s-who of IndyCar racing could be seen there. One night, I was having dinner with my parents and my aunt. Dan arrived late from a sponsor commitment and came over to the table and immediately had everybody smiling. His playful flirting with my aunt gave her a memory that she talks about to this day. Fun memories included Dan busting me and reminding me all night for not opening the door for my wife as we walked into the establishment or his bartending skills and the extra strong drinks he mixed. Best friends, hardly, however we always made a point to exchange a hearty handshake and backslap when we saw each other. Was I the only one? Nope, because Dan made everyone feel like he knew them all their lives.

However, let’s not forget he was a race car driver. He knew the consequences. In a private conversation several years ago, Larry and I were busting him for wanting to drive NASCAR. He told us, “I don’t care what I drive. I just want to drive, I want to drive a race car every day.” Fellow columnist John Close wrote, It’s something everyone accepts but nobody ever gets used to. I found out yesterday that I have not.

The one thing I’ll miss is Larry enthusiastically greeting him as “Danny”! As a racing family, we pray for his wife, Susie, his children, Sebastian and Oliver as well as his parents, and his brothers and sister, Holly.

INDYCAR announced late Monday that has created a memorial website in honor of Dan Wheldon. Wheldon was scheduled to take over the No. 7 GoDaddy Andretti Autosport ride in 2012.

The memorial site, which includes a Facebook link to leave condolences and remembrances and a career photo retrospective, can be found at

Wheldon, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 2005 IZOD IndyCar Series champion, was killed in a race crash Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He is survived by his wife, Susie, and two young sons. Wheldon was 33.

INDYCAR will pay tribute to Wheldon with a public memorial service in the near future in Indianapolis. Further details on the service and how the public can make memorial contributions will be forthcoming.

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