Indianapolis 500 plans to honour Dan Wheldon
A number of tributes during race week of the Indianapolis 500 will honour the memory of 2011 500 winner Dan Wheldon, who died during the IZOD IndyCar Series season closer at Las Vegas last October.
The tributes began with the addition of the car Wheldon won the 500 in being added to the Speedway’s Museum this week – it will be on display right until the completion of the event on Sunday week.
When Wheldon’s widow, Susie arrives in Indianapolis, she will accept Dan’s winner’s ring in the traditional ceremony afforded the winner and on race eve, she will address the 33 drivers that will take the green flag as part of the driver’s briefing.
Each of the cars will carry Wheldon’s likeness, which has been included on the technical inspection stickers.
Former driver and owner of the car Wheldon won last year’s race in, Bryan Herta, will take the defending Champion car for a lap of honour as part of the pre-race buildup and each spectator will be handed a pair of glasses in the likeness of those favoured by Wheldon.
The Speedway will request the fans wear the glasses on Herta’s memorial lap and on laps 26 and 98 – the race numbers he carried in his two Indianapolis 500 wins.
The return to Indianapolis without its defending Champion was always going to be an emotional one for the IndyCar Series teams and drivers.
Englishman, Wheldon had been due to line up for Andretti Autosport during the 2012 season. Instead the new IndyCar carries his initials in memory.
Australia is anticipated to have two front-running entries in the race – with IZOD IndyCar Series point leader, Will Power and Sydney-sider Ryan Briscoe. New Zealand’s hopes rest with Scott Dixon and Wade Cunningham – who is driving the AJ Foyt ABC Rentals machine in his first ever attempt at qualifying for the event.
34 drivers will attempt to fill the traditional 11 rows of three, including ‘rookie’ former Formula 1 aces Jean Alesi and Rubens Barrichello.