One year ago, Dan Wheldon won his second Indianapolis 500.
Five months later, he was gone. Killed in a crash during the Izod IndyCar Series season finale in Las Vegas.
But on Sunday, Wheldon's spirit reigned over Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as the three drivers who knew him best -- and served as pallbearers at his funeral last October, crossed the finish line 1-2-3.
|Photo by: AJ Mast|
Kinda hard to chalk that up to coincidence.
"Racing is emotion. Life is as well," Franchitti said after becoming a three-time Indy 500 champion. "I really want to thank all the fans for saluting our Dan today. What a race."
Among the first to congratulate him? Susie Wheldon, Dan's widow. It was her first trip to any race track since her husband's death.
"I tell you what, she's a stronger person than I am to come here," Franchitti said.
Like Franchitti, Dixon and Kanaan also let it be known that Sunday was all about their fallen friend.
"I'm sure Dan is smiling down on us," Dixon said. "No doubt about it."
"Wherever he is right now, he's happy, I can tell you that," Kanaan said. "He's patting Dario on the back for sure."
While Sunday's race was about Franchitti climbing higher up on Indy's all-time list of giants, it was more about remembering a great driver and even better friend, one whose life was cut tragically short while doing the very thing he loved most.
A reputation enhanced. But most of all, a man remembered.