Wheldon Honored As Drivers Prepare For 2012 Indianapolis 500
A large contingent of race fans came to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on a steamy Saturday morning to attend the Public Drivers' Meeting as all of the 33 starters participating in the 2012 Indianapolis 500 received their final instructions.
Susie Wheldon and team owner Bryan Herta received a lengthy standing ovation from the crowd when they were presented with the "Baby Borg" trophy for 2011 winner Dan Wheldon by James Verrier, vice president of BorgWarner. Susie Wheldon also received a check for $130,000 on behalf of her late husband.
The Baby Borg is a miniature replica of the famed Borg-Warner Trophy, which bears the bas-relief likeness, name and average speed of every Indianapolis 500 winner.
Susie Wheldon also was presented with the 2011 Indianapolis 500 winning driver's ring, made by Herff Jones, by Gary Garfield, chief executive officer of Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. 2011 Firestone Freedom 100 winner Josef Newgarden also received a ring for his victory last May at IMS.
In addition, Susie Wheldon was presented with the Louis Meyer Award commemorating her husband's 2011 victory, sponsored by the American Dairy Association. Deb Osza, general manager of Milk Promotion Services of Indiana, presented Susie Wheldon with the award.
Louis Meyer began the tradition of drinking milk in victory lane in 1936 when he drank buttermilk after his victory.
Making his 67th appearance at the famed 2.5-mile oval, legendary team owner Andy Granatelli presented the Unsung Hero Award to Randy Bernard, the chief executive officer of INDYCAR.
"I'm here because I love auto racing and because I love this track," Granatelli said to the excited crowd.
Herff Jones awarded Dario Franchitti with a 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series championship ring, and Newgarden a championship ring for his 2011 Firestone Indy Lights title.
All 33 drivers in this year's race were presented with their starter rings. 2012 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car driver, Food Network star Guy Fieri, also received a ring.
Beaux Barfield, president of competition for INDYCAR, concluded the meeting with final instructions to the drivers. Two major changes of note for this year's race are restarts will now be single file, and in the last 20 laps, lapped cars will be moved to the back of the field.
Coverage of the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500 will begin at 11 a.m. (ET) Sunday on ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The race starts at noon.