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Wheldon To Be Honored During Pre-500 Festivities

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 17 2012

Dan Wheldon loved winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The life of two-time/reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon will be honored during a variety of activities leading into the 96th running of the race on May 27.

Wheldon earned his second Indy 500 victory in dramatic fashion at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last May 29, taking the lead for the first and only time on the final straightaway after rookie JR Hildebrand crashed in Turn 4. Wheldon also won the race driving for Andretti Green Racing in 2005, a prelude to his lone IZOD IndyCar Series championship.

Wheldon, 33, died as the result of head injuries suffered in a multiple car crash during the IndyCar season-ender at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16.

IMS officials announced in March the 2012 Indy 500 ticket would feature Wheldon celebrating his unforgettable victory. The ticket is designed around a picture of Wheldon pouring the traditional winner’s drink of milk over his head in Victory Lane, with his car crossing the Yard of Bricks in the background. The 2012 Indianapolis 500 logo also is featured prominently on the ticket, which was designed by IMS Creative Services.

One of the post-race highlights was Wheldon kissing the Yard of Bricks repeatedly and then laying on his back, with arms and feet in the air in pure joy, after what was supposed to have been his lone start of the season with Bryan Herta Autosport.

“Winning the Indianapolis 500 was a dream of Dan’s since he started racing, and he was proud to represent the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500 after he won it the first time in 2005,” said Susie Wheldon, Dan’s wife. “But winning it the second time, in such dramatic fashion with a new team, was something Dan cherished so deeply because he really appreciated another chance to compete at the race that meant more to him than any other.”

Wheldon served as sanctioning body INDYCAR’s primary test driver last summer for the revolutionary 2012 Dallara chassis, which has been named the DW12 in his memory.

The IMS tributes started Wednesday, when Wheldon’s No. 98 William Rast-Curb/Big Machine Dallara/Honda/Firestone was placed on display at the IMS Hall of Fame Museum until Sunday, May 20. That car also will be displayed Saturday, May 26, in the Pagoda Plaza during Legends Day Honoring Roger Penske presented by Shell.

A series of tributes to Wheldon are planned on May 27:

• All fans entering the track on Race Day will receive a pair of white cardboard sunglasses _ white sunglasses were a favorite of the fashionable Wheldon _ to wear in tribute to the Englishman on the parade lap, Lap 26 and Lap 98, recognizing the numbers of his winning cars. Fans also are encouraged to wear their own white sunglasses during those laps.

• Bryan Herta, co-owner of Bryan Herta Autosport, will drive the No. 98 car for a lap of honor during pre-race ceremonies shortly before the command to start engines. Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which had a technical alliance last year with BHA at Indianapolis, has restored the car. Herta, a former open-wheel competitor, made five Indy 500 starts between 1994 and 2006.

• Wheldon will be featured on Race Day technical inspection stickers affixed to all cars in the field.

In addition, Susie Wheldon will participate in the Public Drivers Meeting on Saturday, May 26, at IMS and receive her husband’s Champion of Champions ring for his 2011 victory.

“Dan embodied the spirit of the Indianapolis 500 and Indianapolis Motor Speedway like few who have ever raced here,” said Jeff Belskus, president/CEO, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. “He loved this race and this special place so much, and his fans and everyone associated with ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ returned that affection with equal passion. We’re honored to pay tribute to Dan _ an incredible father, husband, friend and driver _ through these activities this year. But rest assured, he will be remembered forever at IMS.”

Five entrants earned spots in the Indianapolis 500 Pit Stop Competition on Miller Lite Carb Day on Friday, May 25, during time trials Wednesday at IMS. Six teams changed tires and simulated fueling during the trials.

The five qualifiers, and their times: No. 38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing with Graham Rahal, 9.157-seconds; No. 4 Panther Racing with JR Hildebrand, 9.298-seconds; No. 22 Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing with Oriol Servia, 9.322-seconds; No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing with Mike Conway, 9.815-seconds and No. 28 Andretti Autosport with Ryan Hunter-Reay, 9.939-seconds.

Those five entrants will join the seven that previously qualified through their performance at 2011 IndyCar Series races after the Indianapolis 500: No. 2 Team Penske with Ryan Briscoe, No. 3 Team Penske with Helio Castroneves, No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Scott Dixon, No. 12 Team Penske with Will Power, No. 26 Andretti Autosport with Marco Andretti, No. 27 Andretti Autosport with James Hinchcliffe and No. 50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Dario Franchitti.

The Nos. 2, 3 and 50 will receive byes into the quarterfinals, along with either the Nos. 9 or 12 that are tied for position. A blind draw will determine the qualifier.

A $100,000 purse will be awarded at the Indianapolis 500 Pit Stop Competition _ four rounds of head-to-head competition in which teams change four tires and simulate fueling.

Unlike past years, the winning team in each round will advance via the quickest time from drop of the green flag until the car reaches the finish line. The winning team will receive $50,000, with the remainder of the purse being distributed based upon finish.

Indiana Section SAE International announced six candidates Wednesday for the 46th annual Louis Schwitzer Award sponsored by BorgWarner, to be presented at 11 a.m. Friday, May 18, in the Economaki Press Conference Room at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Media Center.

The award, presented to engineers by engineers, recognizes individuals with the courage and conviction to explore and develop new concepts in motorsports technology for use in the Indianapolis 500. The candidates are individuals responsible for the Chevrolet IndyCar V-6 engine, Honda HI12R V-6 engine, Lotus Indy V-6 engine, Dallara DW12 chassis, Xtrac transmission and BorgWarner turbochargers.

The Louis Schwitzer Award has been presented annually since 1967 by the Indiana Section SAE International in honor of early racing pioneer and past Indiana Section Chairman Louis Schwitzer. Award sponsor BorgWarner provides a $10,000 cash prize to the winner, whose name is added to the permanent trophy on display at the IMS Hall of Fame Museum.

Last year’s recipients were James Goodloe, Roger Griffiths, Marcelo Martinelli and Robert Bell from Honda Performance Development for the Honda Refueling Safety Interlock System. Past winners have included team-owner Colin Chapman, driver Bruce McLaren, mechanic Smokey Yunick, owner/driver A.J. Foyt Jr. and chassis designer Gian Paolo Dallara.

For the record(s), Indianapolis orthodontist Dr. Charles Pritchett served as Wednesday’s honorary starter. Pritchett has attended every racing event at IMS since 1957 _ meaning every Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400, United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Formula One race and Red Bull Indianapolis GP for motorcycles. So, schedule your kid’s next appointment accordingly.

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 17 2012
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