Dan Wheldon, Indianapolis 500 winner died Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after his car burst into flames following a high-speed 15-car pile-up.
Dan Wheldon’s Dallara-Honda flew over another racer’s car and landed in a catch fence just outside Turn 2. Three other drivers, including championship contender Will Power, were hurt in the pileup during Lap 11.
Dan Wheldon, 33, was a two-time Indy winner, including this year’s race.
The British Indycar champion was rushed to University Medical Center of Las Vegas in a helicopter but died as a result of his severe “unsurvivable” injuries.
There were speculations that Dan Wheldon was pushing himself to the limits for the massive $5 million bonus given to drivers who had started at the back of the grid.
Organizers of the race had offered the $5 million bonus to any non-regular IndyCar driver, such as Dan Wheldon, who had started at the back of the field.
Despite his previous success, Dan Wheldon was not a regular driver this season and accepted the offer, leading to speculation this caused him to drive faster than normal. A win would have helped to restore him to the heights of the series and helped with sponsorship.
The race was abandoned after the tragedy and as news of Dan Wheldon’s death spread there were emotional scenes track side.
IndyCar CEO, Randy Bernard confirmed Dan Wheldon’s death during a press conference.
“IndyCar is very sad to announce that Dan Wheldon has passed away from unsurvivable injuries.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family today.”
Fellow driver Dario Franchitti, Den Wheldon’s former teammate and friend since the age of six, said:
“One minute you’re joking around at driver intros.
“I lost, we lost, a good friend. Everybody in the IndyCar series considered him a friend. He was such a good guy. He was a charmer.”
With the race abandoned, drivers, many sobbing openly, took part in a five-lap salute around the oval in honor of one of the sport’s biggest stars.
Dan Wheldon is the first IndyCar driver to die on the track since rookie Paul Dana was killed in practice on the morning of race day at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2006.
The tragedy comes just months after Dan Wheldon won the famous Indianapolis 500 in May for the second time.
Dan Wheldon, who lived in St Petersburg, Florida, won the entire IndyCar series championship back in 2005, when he also enjoyed his first triumph in the Indy500 race.
Dan Wheldon was born in Emberton, Buckinghamshire, and he attended the fee-paying Bedford School and started karting at the age of four.
After an early racing rivalry with contemporary and Formula One ace Jenson Button, Dan Wheldon left the UK in 1999 for the more lucrative racing scene in the USA.
Dan Wheldon’s first Indianapolis 500 victory was in 2005, when he passed Danica Patrick with less than 10 laps to go that year.
He was the beneficiary of a huge gaffe by someone else.
Dan Wheldon was in second place, far back of rookie J.R. Hildebrand approaching the final turn – when Hildebrand lost control and clipped the wall.
Dan Wheldon was almost resigned to finishing second at Indy for the third straight year, before misfortune struck Hildebrand.
“It’s obviously unfortunate, but that’s Indianapolis,” he said.
“That’s why it’s the greatest spectacle in racing. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Dan Wheldon is survived by his wife Susie and two sons, Sebastian and Oliver.