Wheldon does PR work for Texas race
IndyCar Series driver Dan Wheldon may have been nearly 5,000 miles from his hometown of Emberton, England, but he returned to his roots today in Frisco, Texas.
Wheldon, whose passion for soccer is second only to auto racing, had the rare opportunity to participate in a soccer scrimmage with the Western Conference-leading FC Dallas Major League Soccer team as part of a media visit to promote the June 7 Bombardier Learjet 550k IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Wheldon, who played as a youth and still toys around with the game, immediately found the English connections on FC Dallas as he enjoyed chatting with Coach Steve Morrow, who played for Arsenal, and forward Kenny Cooper, who previously played with Manchester United. “For me as an Englishman, soccer is prominent from where I’m from…actually soccer and motor racing, so it’s good to kind of combine the two and get back what I used to be doing when I was four years old,” Wheldon said. “I understand soccer because that’s what I was brought up knowing. I think that the more people get to see soccer and they can relate to it the more they will see how much fun it is.” Wheldon, sporting a full FC Dallas practice uniform, was brought to midfield of the soccer pitch where Coach Morrow introduced him to the team, congratulated on his win last week at Kansas and presented him with a personalized FC Dallas game jersey with his car number 10.
That also happened to be the current number of Brazilian forward Ricardinho, who had some fun with the moment and playfully acted as if he was hurt by Coach Morrow giving away his number. Wheldon was initially scheduled to participate in some shooting drills, but he received a rare treat courtesy of Coach Morrow as he welcomed the 2005 IndyCar Series champion and Indy 500 winner to play in the final 10 minutes of the team’s 11-on-11 scrimmage. Thanks to his generous new teammates, Wheldon got several touches during the scrimmage and the generosity of Coach Morrow led to Wheldon getting a penalty kick as a result of a “mystery” foul in the box. Wheldon converted the kick, but admitted “I think whichever way I shot the ball he (the keeper) was going to go the other way.”
Immediately following the goal, his new teammates swarmed him in congratulations for converting the penalty kick to conclude the scrimmage. “It’s definitely been a while since I’ve played soccer so I was a little bit rusty,” said Wheldon, whose favorite soccer club is Manchester United. “It was great to be back ‘to my roots,’ so to speak. Obviously, being from Europe I played a lot of soccer growing up, but not to level these guys play. But I love the game and love to watch it. The guys on the team were kind to let me score a goal during our training.”
“You know it’s amazing whenever you get the chance to get a look inside another professional sport like soccer,” Wheldon continued. “FC Dallas has a lot of young, talented guys. This has been exciting for me since I love soccer. It’s cool to meet these guys and know they have had a strong season so far, so we’ll see if that can rub off on me for the Indianapolis 500.”
To add a racing tie, Wheldon ended his day with FC Dallas by competing in a golf-cart race in the parking lot of Pizza Hut Park with one of his new Brazilian “teammates” and IndyCar fan, Marcelo Saragosa. Wheldon, of course, crossed the finish line in first place.