Drivers, teams and officials from the IndyCar Series and the rest of worldwide motorsport have been paying tribute to 2005 and 2011 Indianapolis 500 winner and '05 IndyCar champion Dan Wheldon, who died in an accident at Las Vegas on Sunday.
The 33-year-old Briton was involved in a 15-car pile-up on lap 12 of the race, with his Sam Schmidt Motorsports car launched into the air in the accident and rolling across the track before making contact with the safety fence and barrier. He was airlifted to hospital but died from what were described as "unsurvivable injuries."
Wheldon had started from the rear of the field as part of a $5 million challenge that would have seen him and a randomly chosen fan win $2.5 million each had he won the race, which was cancelled after the crash. The 19 drivers whose cars were still running agreed to complete a five-lap, three-wide parade in Wheldon's honour instead.
TRIBUTES TO DAN WHELDON:
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Formula 1 driver
"This is an extremely sad day. Dan was a racer I'd followed throughout my career, as I often followed in his footsteps as we climbed the motorsport ladder in the UK. He was an extremely talented driver. As a British guy, who not only went over to the States but who twice won the Indy 500, he was an inspirational guy, and someone that every racing driver looked up to with respect and admiration. This is a tragic loss at such a young age. My heart goes out to his family and friends during this extremely difficult time."
Andretti Autosport (Wheldon's team - as Andretti Green - from 2003 to 2005)
"It is with extreme sorrow that we have lost one of our champion drivers today. Dan was an Indy 500 champion and IndyCar Series champion with Andretti Autosport - and one of our closest competitors. Dan brought such enthusiasm and passion to the sport not often seen in motorsports. We will remember Dan's tremendous racing accomplishments with our team as well his infectious personality. We would like to express our deepest sympathy to Dan's family, racing team and friends today. Dan is one of IndyCar's greatest champions."
Sam Schmidt, Wheldon's team owner
"Dan Wheldon was a tremendous competitor, a great racer and an even better person. It was an honour to have him be a part of our team. All of us at Sam Schmidt Motorsports are deeply saddened by his passing. Our prayers go out to all his family, especially his wife Susie, and their two children."
Brian Herta, boss of Wheldon's Indianapolis 500-winning team
Everyone at Bryan Herta Autosport is reeling from the loss of our friend and teammate Dan Wheldon. Dan was the glue that bound our little team together. It was his spark and belief in us that carried us all to Victory Lane at Indianapolis this year, and his legacy within the sport as a tremendous champion and competitor is unquestioned. But more than that, Dan became my little brother from our time together as teammates at AGR. I watched with pride as he developed from the brash young hotshot on the circuit to a man who was a great husband and father, ambassador, friend, champion and hero. Our thoughts and prayers are with Susie and the boys, and all of Dan's family and fans who are trying to make sense of this terrible loss. We are all lucky and blessed to have had Dan Wheldon influence our lives, and his spirit lives on in each one of us. Godspeed my friend.
Jeff Belskus, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation president
"We are incredibly saddened at the passing of Dan Wheldon. He was a great champion of the Indianapolis 500 and a wonderful ambassador for the race, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and all of motorsports. Most importantly, he was a fantastic husband, father and man - a good friend to so many in this sport. His memory will live forever at the Speedway, both through the magnitude of his accomplishments on the track and his magnetism off the track. Our deepest sympathies are extended to his entire family, team and fans."
Mark Webber, Red Bull Formula 1 driver
"Rest in Peace Dan. I remember our early days in the UK in 1995/96... Miss ya..."
Ryan Briscoe, Penske IndyCar driver
"I don't have words for the tragic loss of Dan today. He was a good man and will be missed by all of us."
Sarah Fisher Racing, IndyCar team
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Wheldon family. Today we lost a great friend and a true competitor. You will be missed, Dan!"
American Le Mans Series
"Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dan Wheldon. The world has lost a talented IndyCar driver and a great individual."
Alex Lloyd, Dale Coyne Racing IndyCar driver
"This is one of the saddest days of my life. Can't believe we have lost him. He was a true champion and a great friend."
Bobby Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan team boss
"The passing of Dan Wheldon today is a great shame. Dan was a great driver as evidenced by not only his Indianapolis 500 victories, but by his many wins and great performances in the race car. But he was much more than a great driver. He was a good guy, good family man and really seemed to have a bright future not only as a driver but as a television personality as well. We had spoken to him very recently about his prospects as a driver for 2012 with our team and he was very enthusiastic about his future. He will be missed."
KV Racing Technology, IndyCar team
"The entire KV Racing Technology - Lotus organisation extends its heartfelt condolences to the Wheldon family on this very sad occasion. Dan was a great champion and friend, a loving husband and father. He will be deeply missed."
Danica Patrick, Andretti Autosport IndyCar driver
"There are no words for today. Myself and so many others are devastated. I pray for Suzi and the kids that God will give them strength."
Ryan Walkinshaw, Holden Racing Team boss
"I considered it a huge honour to spend time with Dan earlier this year at the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis when we met to finalise our agreement for him to join our team for the Gold Coast. What grabbed my attention most was Dan's character, he was an incredible person with a huge passion for life and love for his family. It is a very sad day for the Toll Holden Racing Team but, more importantly, it is one of true sadness for Dan's family. To them we offer our sincerest condolences."
James Courtney, V8 Supercar driver
"I first met Dan when I moved to Europe in karting in the mid-90s, we knew each other a long time and considered ourselves friends. Today is difficult for those of us who have lost a mate but most of all, as a father of a young family, I am struggling with knowing Dan's wife Susie is now without her partner and their children, Sebastian and Oliver, will grow up without their father. It's Dan's family, all of his family, who I truly feel sorry for."
Justin Wilson, IndyCar driver
"Just don't know what to say. So many thought that are mixed up right now. Dan is one of the Indycar greats. Thoughts with his family."
Tony Kanaan, KV IndyCar driver
"No words to describe the pain. See you on the other side my dear friend. You will be missed."
Oriol Servia, Newman/Haas IndyCar driver
"This is incredibly sad. We all know this is part of the sport. Cars are getting safer, tracks are getting safer so fortunately it hasn't happened in a long time. We all had a bad feeling about this place in particular just because of the high banking and how easy it was to go flat and if you give us the opportunity, we are drivers and we try to go to the front - we race each other hard because that's what we do. We knew it could happen but it's just really sad. There was no right or wrong thing to do really on how to proceed. It's the first time ever that we knew that a driver was gone so I think the series did the right thing. Even if you were going to be more careful we were still going to be travelling at a very high speed and in a risky situation. I think Randy's call was rational. He was saying 'Listen, you guys are not thinking straight.' If they had kept us in the car and we still had hope that Dan was going to be okay and they restarted the race sooner you can just focus on what you do. This wasn't the right way either to finish the race or the season; it feels wrong but there was no right way to deal with the situation. I feel so bad for Susie and their kids. It's so tough to understand when somebody is gone that quickly. Dan was always a very happy guy; he was always smiling. He was a funny, great person that touched a lot of people. He will be missed."
James Hinchcliffe, Newman/Haas IndyCar driver
"It's a black day for the sport. We came in here hoping for a good season finale and ended up losing a very close friend and a very good racing driver. I think Dan was coming into his second wind as a driver. He had so much success early on and he was getting back into that. It's going to be hard next year to climb into the new cars every time knowing that if it wasn't for Dan this thing wouldn't be what it was. He made such an impact on this sport and will even continue to now. It's proof that this is still a very dangerous sport. As hard as we work on the safety side, these things are still very possible. It's tough to put into words what everybody is feeling. There was no right answer on how to deal with this situation in terms of the rest of the race. Deep down we all think Dan would have wanted us to race but out of respect for him we made a decision, right or wrong. We're going to have to regroup over the winter and head into the first race next year and race the whole year for Dan because all I said, the new car that we all are going to be blessed with the opportunity to race, a lot of that is as good as it is because of Dan. My thoughts are with Susie and the kids."
Vitor Meira, AJ Foyt IndyCar driver
"This is not right. It should not have happened. Rest in peace Dan."
Anthony Davidson, Peugeot Le Mans driver
"Spent so many races trying to match Daniel as we grew up and raced together. I'm utterly devastated to hear the sad news. RIP Dan."
Helio Castroneves, Penske IndyCar driver
"It's so hard to speak these days. Dan was a nice guy, my God! A guy like that we feel satisfaction in knowing. He had a son at the age of Mikaella and another baby at a few months. So we are all devastated, with a heavy heart. It's a huge loss. Let us pray that his soul is received with all the glories of the Kingdom of God and sustain his family."
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport IndyCar driver
"Devastated. Lost for words. Dan was a true champion in so, so many ways. He was a huge part of our sport. I'm praying for his family."
Rubens Barrichello, Williams Formula 1 driver
Just got out from the plane and got the terrible news about the death of our friend Dan Wheldon. Will always remember the great times we had at karting in Brazil my friend. Rest in peace.
Jenson Button, McLaren Formula 1 driver
I have so many good memories of racing with Dan in the early 90s, a true fighter. We've lost a legend in our sport but also a great guy... I can't begin to imagine what his family are going through and my thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.
Oliver Gavin, factory Corvette GT driver
"It's obviously tragic for everyone in motorsport, a very sad day. Dan was massively passionate about motorsport and got a huge amount from racing in the USA - something I can relate to very much.
"I've known Dan since a very young age when we raced against each other at Kimbolton Kart Club. We'd be parked up next to him and his dad, Clive, for many a weekend and we got to know all the family; his mum was a scorer at the club. He comes from Emberton which is only about five miles from where I live and the family are well known.
"I feel desperately sorry for Susie and his two young sons. You feel most for the people left behind."
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