On the second anniversary of Dan Wheldon's death, AUTOSPORT revisits our December 2011 collection of tributes to the IndyCar star...
Daniel Clive Wheldon was born on June 22, 1978 in Emberton, Buckinghamshire.
Between then and his untimely death, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16, 2011, he won the Indianapolis 500 twice (2005 and '11), the 2006 Daytona 24 Hours, the 2005 IndyCar Series, the 1999 US FF2000 Championship, and was a race winner in Indy Lights, Toyota Atlantic, British Formula Ford and Formula Vauxhall Junior - and was Cadet kart champion three times consecutively, a feat that has never been matched.
Jenson Button, karting and FFord rival:
"I started racing in 1988 and Dan was always the guy to beat. He had a big number one on his kart, and I remember quite a few races in 1989 and '90 when we were wheel-to-wheel. We won most of the races around the UK, along with Anthony Davidson, so we were always at war and wanted to beat each other. That's the way racing is.
"He was one of the reasons why I used to get out of bed in the morning and get excited about racing - to try to beat him and Anthony. So we knew each other from the early days, all the way through karting.
"We didn't see each other for a few years and then we met up again in Formula Ford in 1998, when again we were both fighting for the British championship and the Festival. I was lucky enough to win the Festival by half a foot from Dan, and we were always very close. When you actually beat Dan, it was a triumph.
"We knew each other well in racing terms, and off the circuit. We raced together for seven years in karting and fought - wheel-banging - all the way through our Formula Ford year in 1998. We had some great fights. He was a great competitor and one of the people you were worried that you might not beat.
"It was a massive shock to me [when he died] because I'd known him since such a young age. We had our coming-togethers, and we didn't always see eye to eye, but we had a mutual respect in terms of the way we went racing. You've got to take the good memories. You have to remember what he's given to the sport."
Marino Franchitti, karting rival and friend:
"Cadet racing didn't start until '87, but Dan and I had experience before that. We'd both run around in lunchbreaks at meetings. I remember that first-ever Cadet race, it was me, Dan and Matt Davies dicing for the lead. Dan broke down, and Matt wiped me out - went over the top of me and almost took my head off!
"It was an inauspicious start from Dan, but he was the man in Cadets, he was just unbelievable, always at the front, winning loads. And that was true for his entire karting career.
"Ford invited me, him, Jenson, all the top British karters of the day to drive a Formula Ford at Silverstone at the end of 1995. He turned up saying he'd never driven a single-seater before, and then went impressively quickly. It turned out he'd been at the Jim Russell school for two weeks already - he pulled a fast one there!
"We stayed in touch all through our lives, and in 2005 I got to drive with him, Dario and Milka Duno in the Daytona 24 Hours. Although we had to carry Milka, that weekend was a lot of fun for the three of us.
"When all the success came with Andretti Green he went through a stage where he was a bit affected by it all, but he was young and it's difficult not be. He came out of the other side of that pretty quickly.
"Susie [his wife] really was the final piece of the puzzle for Dan. Him getting married, having the kids, they were all a lot of fun to be around. It's only when someone's gone that you realise how lucky you were to know them and experience so many momentous times.
"I remember me, him and Kristian Kolby having our first drink together. We each sneaked some beer out of his mum and dad's place, and then, when we were legal drinkers, there were great nights out in between race weekends - at the time it seemed normal but now you realise just how precious that time was.
"His OCD was legendary, he was on a different planet. I remember his first car and his first house in Northampton. I went in and asked him, 'Do you actually live here?' and he says, 'Yeah' - it looked like someone had built the house and just left it exactly as it was.
"He was so anal about things, it was hilarious! With his race kit, he'd take it off in the same order he put it on, and it would be beautifully laid-out. If you touched it, he'd start to freak."
Kristian Kolby, karting rival and friend:
"I met him when I was about 13, doing junior karting, when I moved across from Denmark. Shenington was my first encounter with him: I was minding my own business on a track I didn't know, and he fired me into the tyre wall so bloody hard! I got out of the kart, and he turned round to me and said, 'Welcome to England.' I bloody despised that kid!
"As time went on, we became friends, and as we grew up we became best friends, not just at the racetrack, we spent a lot of private time together at the family houses. In the summer holidays [from school] we'd spend weeks together.
"He was simply a lot of fun, more so away from the circuit than at the circuit. He took his racing very seriously, was dedicated to the cause and absolutely loved it. He was fantastically fast, very quick.
"It's fair to say he grated with a lot of people in those early years, because he was very confident. Take him away from the track back then, and he was the most genuine, fantastic friend you could ever wish for.
"Throughout our teens we were together a lot. When we went to single-seaters we didn't race against each other, and I guess that made it easier to be friends without being direct competitors.
"We got up to loads of mischief, and when we were old enough to drink legally it's fair to say we created even more havoc! He was always the heart and soul of the fun.
"His kids might read this one day... so I've got to be careful here... but we destroyed my dad's karting motorhome at a very young age, well before we should have been drinking.
"It was me, Dan and Marino and a friend of mine. We were young kids who thought we could drink, and we weren't able to handle it. It was very messy! We also went on a couple of boys' holidays to the party islands which was a lot of fun."
"Dan helped set up my half-season in Indy Lights when I went over to visit him. He lived in St Pete first, then moved to Orange County in LA when he was in Atlantics.
"After Laguna Seca, driving home with him and [fellow racer] Hoover Orsi, we decided we'd go and hit Vegas. That was the funniest 48 hours of my life. It went wrong when I gambled two dollars in the slot machine at the entrance of the Mandalay Bay. I turned $2 into $1000 through a complete fluke.
"No one paid for anything for the next 48 hours, drinks, rooms, we had a limo on standby at all times, and somehow we still came away with more money than we had before! It was a proper Vegas dream 48 hours. On a subsequent visit I spent it all back...
"It was difficult to stay in touch when he moved to America. I barely know my wife's phone number off by heart today, but I always remember Dan's mum and dad's number. We used to speak every other night. He wasn't just a friend, he was one of my best friends growing up.
"He had a thing for putting washing-up liquid into my windscreen wiper bottle, and got me on numerous occasions. But when we were in America, he had this white 4x4, a Ford Explorer I think, and he'd just done me again after a race in Ohio. So I decided to get him back by putting engine oil in his.
"Now, anybody who knows Dan and his level of OCD will realise that wasn't the wisest thing I've ever done, because he didn't like his gleaming car getting messy. I don't think he spoke to me for about a week after that.
"He had a separate flat within his mum and dad's house. I'd sneak into his bathroom and swap one can of deodorant on his shelf with another, and he'd walk in and say, 'Something's not right...' and he'd spend the next hour stressing about what it was.
"His magazines were stacked in order of size, and anything else, if it wasn't ordered alphabetical it would be arranged numerically. It was unbelievable how tidy one person can be.
"It was all about his possessions. You've never seen a cleaner go-kart than his. Literally, he'd buff-up the stainless with baby oil. It would be gleaming. Clive, his old fella, was much the same.
"For any rival, the easiest way to mess him up would be to put muck on his helmet on the starting grid. He'd have had a meltdown! He couldn't cope with it."
Dario Franchitti, former team-mate and IndyCar rival:
"I knew Clive before I knew Dan, because he was racing in the seniors against Louis [di Resta] - Paul's dad - when I was starting out. Dan was about six when Clive would put him out in a little 100cc kart at lunchtimes, modified for his short frame.
"He was tiny, but tanking around - his skill level at that age was incredible. As he grew up, I watched Marino race against him and Jenson and Anthony [Davidson] - he was so good in Cadets. It was serious stuff!
"Dan, Marino and Kristian Kolby became mates, and they got into all kinds of bother together! It was fun to watch these tearaway teenagers.
"He came over to America to race, and it was so nice to see him do that and make his own way. He'd ask me for all kinds of advice through Formula Ford 2000, Atlantics and Indy Lights. The next thing he's coming to Andretti Green as mine and Tony [Kanaan]'s team-mate.
"At first, he was very much the rookie team-mate. He was like a sponge: so keen to learn. Of course, we picked on him mercilessly! As you would, right? In 2004 he started winning races, and that added a different dynamic. He was very sure of himself, a little bit cocky and all that. But he was fun to hang out with on a night out!
"As a team-mate, there were times where he could be difficult, and it was interesting to talk to Bryan Herta [who ran Dan's winning car] after Indy this year and hear him say, 'You can't believe the change in Dan.'
"Out of the car, he changed a massive amount. He still had that kind of swagger, but he was very much at peace with himself, he was so happy. Happy being married, happy having the boys.
"He was concerned he didn't have a drive, sure, but it wasn't the end of the world. Bryan said he was motivating everybody in the team, he's loving solving problems, he's such a good team leader. If things weren't going well he'd take it in his stride. This was before they won it! That was cool to see.
"A lot of it was down to Susie. The boys, definitely, were the final piece in the puzzle. But Dan himself, he just got it. I guess everyone changes throughout life, but Dan just clicked.
"He was always a blast to go out with. This year [after Indy] was a different experience. All the good bits from the old Dan were still there, but it was backed up by more good bits. It was great to see.
"He was getting pretty street-smart to our wind-ups too. It was a lot harder to wind him up. We had dinner, totally unplanned, at the Brazilian restaurant in Indy this year - me, Tony, Dan, Bryan, a big group of us in the end. We just sat and laughed, cracking up constantly.
"We tried all night to wind Dan up, and he just wasn't having any of it! We were talking about the Indy lockers and Motegi shoe thing [when they Fed-Exed all his left shoes back to America], and he was able to have a good chuckle at it.
"He said, 'Mate, you should see my house now' - because it used to be shoes off at the door, don't do this, don't do that, it was like a show house. When Sebastian [Dan's son] came along I said, 'How's that working out?' He said, 'I don't care, mate. He can do exactly what he wants.' And the same with Oliver. That is the best example I can give of DW changing.
"He was merciless with his cellphone prank [Dan would pinch friends' phones and send obscene text messages to everyone in the contacts book]. I was one step ahead of him at all times on that one, always paid attention, never let my guard down. I never let my phone get anywhere near him!"
On Dan's reaction to pranks: "He shouted a lot in Motegi, I remember that. He went into a little bit of a huff. Then he won the race the next day. And then he just laughed! Talk about the different stages of that weekend!
"God, that was funny. The explosion of rage when he found out what we'd done. That just made it worse, that egged us on! That actually inspired me to saw Tony Kanaan's brand new bicycle in half.
"We had some bumps along the way on the track, Michigan in '07 [when they collided, causing Dario to flip over] and some other points, but I think that's another example of how our relationship changed.
"In the Chicago race last year, I came on my radio to my spotter Scott Harner - who was very good friends with Dan - and said, 'Tell Dan's spotter I'll give him the bottom half of the corner [to keep air on his wings] and we'll try and pull away from the guys behind and fight it out between ourselves at the end.'
"Sure enough, we did exactly what we said. When you had an agreement like that, he'd stick to it. You could race him unbelievably closely. To me, on those tracks, he was probably the best I've ever seen. The best oval driver I've ever seen was Greg [Moore], but on the bigger tracks, like Indy, Dan took some beating. Look at his finishing record there. He knew how to get it done.
"At Texas, I was walking back and I saw Danica and her husband, Paul. She said come and have a beer back at our bus and watch the TV footage that Dan had commentated on. He was excellent, right up there with the best driver analysts I've ever heard.
"He was telling people at home only stuff drivers would ever know. He was so in tune with what people would want to know, and the fun side of his personality came out too. He loved being an entertainer, he had real showmanship about him.
"Oh man, we managed to fluster him on the grid walks he did, though! I think we managed to make sure it was all off-air, but we got him a few times! In some ways it was good to see him doing [TV work], in some ways it was sad because he wasn't in the car.
"I think he could have easily made a career of that, but he wanted to be in the car. All season I was saying what a travesty it was not to have him in the series, or Paul Tracy for that matter. Then Dan goes and wins the Indy 500 - that proved a point, right?"
"He was a one-off that boy. Even in the early years, when he had that arrogance, or whatever word you might wish to call it, but throughout anytime I saw him, at a track, away, wherever, any interaction he had with a fan - he would always make time.
"We don't all do that, because we might be in a rush to get to a meeting, or rushing to get to a car. Dan was unbelievably good at making time for people he'd maybe never met before."
Mark Webber, former Brands Hatch Racing School colleague:
"We were driving the BMWs at Brands back then, and we'd have a lot of passengers on board. It was a natural environment for piss-taking. Whether we'd give the people the wrong-sized helmets to put on, or saying, 'You're doing a really good job' when they're making kangaroo starts or whatever, and we'd be pissing ourselves. There was always massive banter going on.
"Dan had an infectious character about him. I wasn't completely flush with mates when I first came over here, I was getting my bearings, getting to know people. In '97, I was doing F3 and Dan was doing Formula Ford, and he was a super-competitive kinda guy. Because we'd never race against each other, we got on pretty well. He was always flash, always smooth, always super-tidy.
"Sometimes we'd leave Brands together, heading towards the Dartford Tunnel: me, Dan and Jamie Spence. The first one there would put the pound in the toll, and the rest would follow him through before the bar came down! Over the course of the weekend we were saving five quid, which was a lot of money to us - I was driving a B-reg 1.1 Fiesta back then!
"He made that early decision that Europe wasn't possible for him financially, you know - there was a lot of British drivers around then all vying for the same sponsorship bucket. He made the States work for him. There's a lot of guys who've failed to win the Indy 500 once, and he's won it twice. He was a big achiever.
"At the time of his death he still had loads to offer, loads to give. Yes, he was a fierce competitor, but he was a bloody good guy as well."
Micky Ryan, Dan's right-hand man:
"I first met Dan when he was called up for Dario's seat in Japan in 2003, after Dario broke his back after the malfunction with his bike. I was kinda the new guy on the block, I'd only joined the team in December '02, and I'd spoken to Dan on the phone before.
"When I, the new guy, flew to Japan, we didn't know the full extent of Dario's injury. So while I was flying over the Pacific Ocean, it was determined by Dr Terry Trammell that Dario couldn't race, so Dan was in.
"I landed thinking I was working with Dario, then I was sent straight to Tokyo to meet Dan, because he was in. He didn't know me from a hole in the ground, and I arrived at a downtown Tokyo hotel, turned the corner and saw him having breakfast with Kim Green [team co-owner]. Dan smiled, got up, gave me a man-hug and then shook my hand.
"It was a great week with him in Japan. We ended up after the race down at Roppongi [Tokyo's nightclub district], banging the drum at Geronimo's [a shot bar]! It felt like we were old war buddies when we actually hadn't met before that race. He was so welcoming like that. He was very charming, he could really turn it on.
"We got used to spending hours and hours at the racetrack waiting for Dan because he'd spend so long with the engineers. People would have gone home for the day while Dan was still working and trying to figure out the car for the next session. He was a really hard worker.
"Dan was also a lot of fun off the track. He was a racecar driver, he had girlfriends and, like everyone, he had his single moments. After his first win at Motegi in 2004 we were trying to put him to bed - I don't remember what time - and we were having to slap him in the face because he was that passed out!
"What I liked about Dan was, it was kinda like college - when he got his homework done and got good grades, it was time to party. Shit man, we had a lot of fun. But as soon as he got his feet wet in an Indycar, he was awesome."
Adrian Sussmann, manager:
"We started working together in the summer of 2000, when he was in Atlantics. It had been a big move for him to go to the States, and back then he was a [starts chuckling] typical, cocky 21-year-old racecar driver!
"We got him a paid drive with PacWest in Indy Lights, and he was thrilled, because no one else got paid in Indy Lights, other than Scott Dixon the year before him. So that was his first paid contract, and he loved that deal. I told him, 'You've got to win two races to get a deal for Indycar.' One win can be a fluke, right? But two means you're ready to step up.
"He won at Milwaukee, Townsend Bell had a mechanical [problem] and Dan inherited the win. As the races were ticking down we got to Road Atlanta, and he passed Townsend Bell at the last corner on the outside. He got straight out of the car, called me and said, 'Where's my IndyCar ride?'
"He would call me five times a day, at least. Mostly along the lines of 'What are you doing? Why haven't I got a ride?' In 2002, when he didn't have a ride, he'd literally call me every day. Ask my wife - that was one summer holiday that was completely ruined! We got the testing deal with Panther, and two races at the end of 2002 - it was a relief to find him a home.
"Dan would always move to wherever his race team was based. He wanted to almost camp-out in the race shop and get to know all the engineers and mechanics. He probably drove them absolutely mad - that was all part of the Dan experience! But lots of young drivers could learn from Dan's approach. He moved to Florida in FF2000, California for Atlantics and Indianapolis for Indy Lights.
"Dan went to all the races with Panther, and Sam Hornish was a good guy to learn from. Dan's timing was always perfect - it was just at that transition time when all of the big teams were coming across from CART to IndyCar. We had a great relationship with the Andretti Green guys through Dario, and Kim Green, as well as Honda, watched Dan's two races closely that year and put a bug in their ear that they should hire this kid.
"Now he'd got miles in the [IRL] car, and they were coming over with a new sponsor, Jim Beam, so it was a perfect storm that came together. They offered Dan a deal, and his career took off from there.
"He was brilliant at how he got a team to work with him. Yes, he did have that sort of cocky and arrogant streak - not that I mean that in a bad way - but people loved that; they fell in love with him. He was so confident, and he demanded the best out of everyone around him, and it made everyone deliver.
"He was such a fast learner, be it from Sam Hornish Jr [Wheldon's Panther team-mate] or Dario or Bryan or Tony. He was like a sponge.
"You've got to credit the Andretti guys, they put so many good people around him. Eddie Jones and Tom Anderson were a massive part of that, and Dan really looked up to them."
"When Dan left Andretti for Ganassi, he hired Susie [Behm, his future wife] as his assistant. I think any of our wives or girlfriends would have spotted in a nanosecond that something was going on. They were just a great team together.
"A big part of Dan's success was knowing that everything was taken care of. He was so detail-oriented and specific, he wanted everything to be just perfect. I think having Susie there actually helped him on the racetrack, because he had to get into that racecar with a completely clear mind."
Ryan: "There were lots of inklings that there was more than just a working relationship going on there. He became a lot more grounded I think. Even when he didn't have a ride, he spent so much time with his kids, taking Sebastian to daycare and pick him up again, from January to May of this year, I think those five months were some of the best for Dan. Through that time of not having a ride, he said, 'Mickey, I've learned who my real friends are.'"
Sussmann: "They got married in March 2008, then his mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in that winter, which was obviously a real shock to the family. Obviously this was very upsetting for the whole family, but his parents moved down to Florida for the period around when Sebastian was born - it was Superbowl weekend.
"He arrived a bit early, and Dan always said it was on purpose to cheer his mum and dad up. That was a huge positive for the family after some difficult times, and for Dan in particular. You could see the same Dan, but it was like he was different too. He had such a close relationship with all of his siblings, he really was a family guy deep down.
"His mum and dad couldn't come out this year for the first time sadly, but we'd still have a lot of fun at Indy with the rest of the family. It was just a really emotional win, with his mum not being there because of her illness and his boys being there. He'd been through some hard times, and some people had counted him out.
"His first 500 win in 2005 was almost expected, as he won four races out of five, but this time he was written off in some quarters. But here he came, with a tiny team cobbled together, and he frigging wins it! His last stint, when he was told to push flat-out all the way, was incredible. That's why he was in position to win it at the end.
"Having gone through the down times, we'd won Indy and we had a contract all done with Andretti for 2012, and it was going to be so exciting to get back into a top team. They were so excited to have him back, and he was excited to be going back. Look at what happened with Dario when he took that year out. To be honest, I think his best years were still ahead."
John Button, Jenson's father:
"Jense was eight-years-old when he started, Dan was one or two years up the road, two years older. He was the one to aim for. His father set the standard to a new level: loads of chassis, throwing tyres at it left, right and centre. He was the envy of everyone.
"Dan and Jenson got on really well, and they raced each other for a couple of years, and I think Jense learned quite a lot from him at that stage. We didn't meet up until Jense was 17, and it was the European Super A Championships, and they had a mega fight, it was just like the old days! It was so hard but clean.
"Then it was Formula Ford. Dan was seen as the golden boy, the one who'd get to Formula 1, but unfortunately for him Jense came along and won it in his first year. Again, it was a really hard fight, and I guess the best one was the Festival in '98. They were battling for the lead with Marcos Ambrose, but he ended up in the gravel trap. So it was Jense v Dan - it was awesome, cat 'n' mouse stuff. They finished a car length apart, virtually nothing between them.
"After that he went abroad, and we met him once at Indianapolis and caught up on old times. When he went to the States it was like losing a friend, he had his second career there. And as for what happened... shocking.
"When I spoke to Clive after the memorial, it was so funny catching up with all our memories. He said, 'You and me never fell out, but the boys did once - remember Snetterton?' I said, 'Yeah, cos Dan was weaving all over the place!' Clive said, 'Nooooo, he wasn't!' - just like back in the kart days, all light-hearted stuff.
"There were just so, so many amazing races, but I remember there were three superstars: Dan, Jense and Anthony Davidson. Anthony came up with this photo where the three of them are locked in combat, and they just disappeared from everyone else. Dan won the championships, then Dan moved out and Jense won. Dan was the target for Jenson. His was such a professional outfit, Jense would give everything to beat him."
Justin Wilson, karting and IndyCar rival:
"I started racing when I was eight and that's when I first met Dan. I think he'd only done a little bit before that, so he had a little bit more experience. I remember doing the British championship and he won it and I think I finished 10th. You soon realised he was the guy we were all aiming for.
"He was fast and had a pretty unique style, and just seemed to get the kart through the corners so much faster than everyone else. You watched him and paid attention because he was always a contender. He had this cheeky attitude and he carried that on to the track, which defined his style. He would give the kart a flick going into corners and try things other people just weren't doing. It was pretty unique. You could always see his confidence from the outside.
"One incident that always sticks in my mind is from when we were about 14. I think we were at Rowrah, and I was behind Dan. It was wet, and we went through this hairpin and after the hairpin there was an almost flat-out left kink that drops downhill. Through there, he hit a puddle and started spinning, did two 360s down the next straight, dropping down into a right-hander. He passed a guy, gathered it up and stayed ahead of me! Stuff like that sticks in my mind.
"He was always just his usual cheeky self. He drove for Team JLR [in Formula Vauxhall Junior] a couple of years after I did and made the usual cheeky comments, but we didn't race against each other again for a while - not until IndyCar and Champ Car merged. I've got a nice hat that he sent me after he won the Indy 500 for the first time - a signed Jim Beam team hat - and he signed it something like, 'I missed you baby, love Dan.'
"When I won at Watkins Glen, he was the first person I saw when I got out of the car. He came up to say congratulations but he was just always there. The year before, at Indy, on Sunday night we all hired a limo and went down and had a night out after the 500. It was great fun, just easy-going.
"It's hard to describe in words what made him so good on the ovals, I think he knew what the car felt like when it was at its fastest, and I think that's a slightly different feeling to road racing. He had that very subtle feel and knew how to sort it out and fix it. Once you get to the stage that Dan was at, you can start really working out where to be and where not to be - where the air is. I've no doubt that Dan knew how to do that.
"I'm not sure what the difference was on road courses and what happened. Part of me thinks that with his ability to feel the car so subtly on the ovals, maybe he was trying to be too subtle on the road courses and the car wasn't as subtle as that. It's a bit clumsy on the road courses. I'm guessing, but knowing how good he was on the ovals, I'm trying to work out why that didn't translate, and maybe there's something there.
"I don't think going over to the States so early was the problem. Actually in the last couple of years, we were both in certain situations trying to be team-mates, trying to get in the same team, as both of us felt we could help each other and it would've been pretty good. I would've loved to have had the chance to work with him.
"It didn't matter how bad or good his weekend was going, he always kept the smile on, and it never impacted on the way he approached everybody else. I'll always remember that smile, and pre-race when he was about to go out, he was always smiling and talking and being great with the fans, and being perfect in every way."
Anthony Davidson, karting rival:
"In the end we turned into quite good mates, but in the beginning we were fierce competitors even at the age of nine and 10 years old.
"One story is that we were at the local track, Rye House, and I think my dad and Clive [Wheldon] had been getting a bit closer; we'd been driving the same equipment, and I think there were was a bit of a session where Clive was helping my dad because they were the top guys to beat and we were still on the way up at the time.
"There was a general test day at Rye House and we were pounding round together nose-to-tail, and I accidentally tapped him on one of the many laps that we did. I didn't think anything of it at the time. It was a mistake, but tapping the British champion...
"I knew what I'd done. I came in, and despite the dads getting on quite well by this time, Dan walked straight up to me after the helmets were off and in the real high-pitched voice we both had back then, he started off, 'If you ever do that to me again, I'm going to eff-ing kill you!" At which point his dad stepped in and was like, 'No, no, no, no Dan.' He'd obviously trained him to be this ruthless competitor as a 10-year-old kid. I remember feeling so hurt - 'Oh my God I've upset him so badly' - and the two dads kind of had a chuckle about it. He was straight on it, though.
"After that we became pretty good friends. He came on one of my birthday trips up to Alton Towers and it really surprised me how he was petrified of all the rollercoasters, despite being this hard-nosed racer, multiple British Cadet champion, he was terrified. Kids are fearless at the best of times, but not him. Me and my little brother were going on all the harder rides and he was happy to stand back and watch.
"We'd spend time round at each other's houses over the race weekends. Normally we'd test on the Saturday and race on the Sunday, so on the Saturday night he'd come round to mine one race, I'd go round to his the next, and we had a good laugh.
"He had all the toys. He had this little mini-motorbike thing but he only had one of them. I always got the bicycle. We went over to the park, and I was pedalling my arse off trying to keep up but to no avail. Then he comes up with the bright idea of getting out one of those luminous slinky keyrings that was like a telephone cable. He was like, 'Trust me, this'll work, I'll tow you along on the bike.' So he went around, strapping it from the back of his motorbike to the front of my bicycle. He shot off on it, the cable snapped and left me sitting there as he buggered off into the distance. It took him ages to figure out he wasn't pulling me along...
"It was only in junior karting that we raced together because he was a little bit older, he would always be in the next class up. Because the multiple races were over the same weekend, I was always watching what he was up to and he was looking back to what I was up to as well, so I was always aware of what he was doing in the same way I was aware of what Lewis [Hamilton] was doing.
"Then my career at Fullerton dovetailed into Dan's because as he left, I joined. So Dan had his season in '95 and I joined Terry's team in '96, so that was quite fitting, I felt at the time. At my very first test with Fullerton, Dan was there as well, so that was quite nice.
"I wouldn't say we drifted apart, because when you've known someone from basically as long as you can remember, you just pick off where you left off. There's none of that uneasy getting to know each other again situation. You're both famous racers, you're aware of what each other's doing.
"When Twitter came along and you followed each other on Twitter, it was nice because you got to know what all your old sparring partners were doing in their lives and professional lives as well. So I was always aware of what he was doing, but our main friendship was when we were kids.
"Our paths crossed at random times in racing. Every now and again we would see each other at the odd race where we'd both be. I went to a few pro-kart events at one stage and we did a 24-hour kart race, around '95.
"There was a funny situation at one of the events we did, I think it might've been at Buckmore Park, where we were driving around and we had radios - it was quite advanced - and something happened where the two drivers could hear each other, and we started speaking to each other as we went around and I was saying 'hey mate, I'm catching you, I'm catching you'.
"He suddenly realised, 'Ant, is that you? Where are you?' 'I've just gone round the hairpin, where are you?' and we were looking for each other all the way round. The team were like, 'There's been a mistake, you don't have to talk to each other,' but once we'd figured out we could, we didn't stop...
"We were talking about all the drivers we were about to overtake and all that kind of stuff - 'Watch out with so-and-so, I had a right tough time overtaking him, I reckon he's going to take you out...', 'No, I got past him ages ago, it must have just been you...' That was really funny. I've never done that since, had cross-communication so I could speak to a team-mate.
"I don't know much about IndyCar racing and I'm not afraid to admit that, I don't really understand it and I've never really followed it technically to a level where I understand it like I do F1 or sportscars.
"But from speaking to a few teams fairly recently, including Panther, they were saying that their car was very strong on the ovals and they were struggling on the street tracks, but they felt equally that he was struggling as well. A lot of it is down to confidence. Their idea of a road course is very different to our idea of a circuit. It's not as pure as Dan was probably used to. It's like someone like [Pastor] Maldonado goes really well around Monaco, but somewhere like Malaysia or another much more flowing circuit he might struggle a bit more.
"Maybe it's the same thing, maybe Dan had a slightly smoother style that didn't suit American road courses so much. Looking back to his style in karting, you can read a lot more into someone's style in karting than you can in the junior categories of cars because you see the body moving a lot more, you really get to see a true body language.
"Dan was definitely a driver who drove with his fingertips - he eased the kart around rather than having his elbows sticking out and muscling the kart around. Myself, Jenson and Dan all had quite a similar style - let the tyres do the work, not us working the tyres. Maybe on a street track in a big, heavy car that's underpowered, he'd struggle a bit like that. But he was certainly good enough in Formula Ford, and I'm sure if he'd done Formula 3 in Europe he would have been good as well.
"You look at a driver's CV and he won everything he ever did, basically. He was very brave as well, exceptionally brave, even as a kid. That's what makes me laugh about the rollercoaster story because he was braver on the track than I was as a kid. He would go for moves that you wouldn't even think about and he would always come out on top because he would make that last-minute lunge down the inside work.
"He was always on the attack, always fully lit, he was aggressive. If you left a small enough gap down the inside, he would be there, he'd get back in front.
"Dan was always on it, and you can tell things from someone's attitude right from their first couple of years in karting - you can see the trait that's going to continue throughout their career and he was just super-aggressive. A hard, hard-nosed racer.
"The ovals, I think, reward bravery and being ruthless and I think that's probably why he excelled on the ovals. I think having that delicate touch probably helped him out, where you really need to be feeling the car with your fingertips.
"I never spoke to him about it, but just from being able to analyse driver style like I can, it was probably quite fitting. Maybe if he was in a car that responded better to being nursed around on a more flowing circuit, what we would call a more traditional circuit, I'm sure he would've been right up there in a competitive car.
"One thing that was quite amazing at his memorial, I saw Clive and I hadn't seen him for so long, not since we were karting; I'd seen Dan obviously but not his dad. I introduced myself fully because you never know if anyone's going to recognise you. And the first thing he said was, 'Oh my God, you ain't changed a bit...'
"Eerily, the last time Jenson, Dan and myself saw each other, I think it was in Indianapolis in '06, in Friday practice for the grand prix. Jenson was talking to Dan, I walked out because Jenson and I were team-mates at Honda, and the last thing Dan said as we said goodbye, being all cheeky, was, 'He ain't changed a bit...' Word for word. Isn't that amazing?
"It's almost like family - it's really strange and I can't describe it - but it's almost like a member of your family's gone because you've known each other all the way through.
"There's no bullshit there because you know each other inside out, you know each other's history and you cannot pretend to be somebody else, no matter how rich or famous you become. It's almost like a sibling rivalry between the two of you. It's very odd. To lose one of your contemporaries, I can't really describe it."
Clive Wheldon, father:
"It all started when he was five. Reg Deavin, from Deavinsons at Rye House, suggested to me that we should build a kart for Daniel, because he was very small, to go around at the interval after the heats and before the finals.
"We started off with this purpose-built kart, and before long he was just flat-out in it. He was too bloody quick for it so we adapted a proper kart with a 100cc engine, and his lap times were quicker than the Junior Britain guys! Then the RAC introduced the Cadet class.
"He was unbeaten for three years in the Cadets, with three British Championships, up against Jenson Button, Anthony Davidson, some great drivers. That Cadet class - there was so much good racing. Every weekend, we'd find out where everyone was going, and we'd just go and race them. It was like having the British Championships every weekend. It was absolutely brilliant.
"Then he went to Junior Britain, and won the British Championships with Simon Wright, and then we started looking at racing in Europe. We changed to Terry Fullerton, and he looked after him, and that's when we won [the Ayrton Senna Memorial Cup] at Suzuka in Japan, and some big European races.
"Dan was asked by Tecno to become a fully-paid works driver in Europe, and we were getting offers to move into cars in Formula Vauxhall Junior, so we did that.
"We were heading for the championship when we were 'removed' by [Luciano] Burti in the last race at Brands Hatch. We did Formula Ford after that, with Andy Welch first and then Ralph [Firman] at Van Diemen. That was the one mistake we made: Ralph was ill and the car wasn't very good that year; the Mygale was better. The Festival was good for us, though.
"Then we got a deal to do Formula Vauxhall with Paul Stewart Racing, but Ford told Jackie to drop the junior ranks, to concentrate on his Formula 1 team. All of a sudden we didn't have a drive and all of the subsidised drives had gone, and F3 was silly money.
"So Ralph said go and do the FF2000 in America with [Jon] Baytos. Dan went out and did a test, and Andy Pycock from PSR went with him, and he loved it. He thought it was great. Next thing they were looking for apartments, and having great fun out there!
"It was a big mad rush, and the hardest thing for me was that I'd been with him racing every weekend from five years of age, and all of a sudden he's thousands of miles away in America.
"He went out in January, but Ralph couldn't get any cars to them until the end of February, so Dan was phoning me up every night, saying, 'Dad, I'm lonely, I want to come home' - he wasn't enjoying it. I told him, 'We've got to stick at it, testing will start soon' and I told Baytos to get his backside in gear or he wouldn't have a driver!
"I used to go out and watch every race he did in FF2000, then he went into Atlantics with PPI - they were a good team - and from there he went to Indy Lights with PacWest, and it was unbelievable to get a paid drive in that.
"Then 9/11 happened, and there was no money in America anymore. PacWest packed up, and we got this deal for two races with Panther in IndyCars. He did a cracking job, and then Dario got injured on his bike, and Dan stepped in at Andretti Green - he never looked back after that.
"Everything had to be perfect, all the preparation. And that's what Dan was so good at. He'd sit down with a new team and help turn it around, like Scott Dixon said he did at Ganassi.
"I couldn't believe it, when I was in America, how good he was with the fans. A lot of drivers make it, and they forget how they got there along the way, but Dan never, ever forgot that. He was forever signing autographs, having his photo taken. Just look at Goodwood this year, he loved that.
"He had a great life in the short time he had, and he did love his racing."