October 16, 2011

Two-Time Indy 500 Champion Dan Wheldon Killed in Fiery 15-Car Crash

By - Brian Harrington

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon was killed today in a horrific, fiery crash at the season ending race of the IZOD Indy Series in Las Vegas. He was 33.

The crash came just 13 laps into the race. After the initial few cars became entangled, Wheldon's #77 came speeding in, jumped the back of one car, then slid into the wall. The car then slid up into the catch fence and disintegrated. Wheldon was airlifted from the track to University Medical Center. About two hours later, his colleagues were told of his death.

Photo by: Robert Laberge
Despite winning this year's Indy 500, Wheldon couldn't put together a full-time ride this season. He landed in Sunday's race thanks to IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard's promotion that promised $5 million to any moonlighting driver who could win the IndyCar season finale at Vegas. Although there were no takers, Bernard refused to scrap the idea and Wheldon was declared eligible for the prize.

"It was like a movie scene which they try to make as gnarly as possible," said Danica Patrick, making her final IndyCar start. "It was debris everywhere across the whole track, you could smell the smoke, you could see the billowing smoke on the back straight from the car. There was a chunk of fire we were driving around. You could see cars scattered."

The remainder of the race was canceled. Drivers solemnly returned to the track for a five-lap tribute to Wheldon, almost all of them hiding their eyes behind dark sunglasses after being told their colleague was gone. As Roger Penske met with his team trackside and other drivers simply hugged those around them, Bernard made the announcement of Wheldon's death.

When drivers returned to the track, Wheldon's No. 77 was the only one on the towering scoreboard. Dario Franchitti sobbed uncontrollably as he got back into his car for the tribute laps. Over speakers at the track, the song "Danny Boy" blared, followed by "Amazing Grace," as hundreds of crew workers from each team stood watching.

The 2005 and 2011 Indy 500 winner and 2005 series champion is survived by his wife Susie and two sons, Sebastian and Oliver.

Photo by: Johnathan Ferrey


  1. Pretty saddened by this news. While I'm not the most avid of IndyCar fans, I've always liked Wheldon and pulled for him anytime I caught a race on the tube.

    Hard to believe that back in May he won the Indy 500, now five short months later he's gone. Stuff like this always puts things in perspective.

    Rest in peace Dan.

  2. Very sad news. Big loss for the world of auto racing. Godspeed Dan Wheldon. You will be missed.

  3. Holy cow. Is that Wheldon's car flying through the air? Amazing photograph. Sad news as well.

  4. Very sad. RIP Dan Wheldon.

  5. I too liked Wheldon very much. Yeah, that's his car. The picture I DIDN'T post was much more horrific. His car was pretty much a fireball as it hit the cage.

    Being almost 33 myself, it certainly puts things into perspective.

  6. I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Wheldon at an autograph session in Kansas City back in 2009. He stayed almost 3 hours over the scheduled time frame to sign autographs. He didn't leave until everyone that had waited got one. He was the only driver that did that. I'll never forget it. Great guy. He'll be missed.

  7. Nice story Matt. Thanks for sharing it.

  8. Big Wheldon fan. Devastating loss to the sports world. Prayers go out to his family. He'll be greatly missed.

  9. Worst crash I've ever seen in racing. I'm amazed more guys weren't killed. Thoughts and prayers to the Wheldon family. Awful, awful tragedy.

  10. So sad. Prayers go out to his wife and little boys.

  11. Just a horrendous accident. Hated seeing that. My thoughts are with his family.

  12. Actually the car that is airborne in the photo is Will Powers, not Dan Wheldon. Wheldon's car is the giant fireball in the upper left corner of the image. Regardless it was a massive wreck and someone died, so altogether a very sad day for the sports world.

  13. That's actually the car I was referring to, being the fireball. The other picture was a closeup.

    That being said, what most aren't reporting is that Will Power also sustained pretty serious injuries as well.

    Just a devastating crash all around for a racing league that was teetering on the verge of collapse even before this.