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DATE News (chronologically)
03/22/13
irl
Wheldon memorialized before IndyCar season opener
Suzie Wheldon
On the day Dan Wheldon was memorialized by the American city he adopted as home, another Wheldon was whizzing through the streets of its IndyCar course.

Sebastian Wheldon, the 3-year-old son of the late two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, was navigating the track on a golf cart with the help of four-time champion Dario Franchitti.

"Yeah, he was controlling the throttle, which was hilarious," Franchitti said.

After making a lap down Dan Wheldon Way (a street renamed at turn 10 of the layout), Sebastian and his 2-year-old brother, Oliver, became the highlights during a dedication of a new memorial to Wheldon, who was killed in an October 2011 crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Emulating his father's gregarious and affable personality, Sebastian chattered into a microphone as his mother, Susie, thanked city officials and drivers for attending. After the ceremony, Oliver (on his request) was lifted into the cockpit a Dallara DW12, the car named for his father, and mugged for several cameras while turning the wheel.

"To see the boys growing up, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree with those two," said Franchitti, a former teammate of Dan Wheldon's. "They're clearly their fathers' sons, It's very bittersweet in a sense. It's a nice thing to remember Dan but also reminds you of the loss of him."

Wheldon, an Englishman who relocated to St. Petersburg shortly after he started his IndyCar career a decade ago, will be remembered throughout the season-opening weekend of the Izod IndyCar Series. Susie Wheldon and her sons left their handprints in the concrete of the memorial, and she will wave the green flag for Sunday's Honda Grand Prix.

"I am so grateful to be able to make moments like that, just so (Sebastian and Oliver) are able to know what a great driver and champion Dan was, but more importantly what he meant as a human being and father to us," she said. "I'm looking forward to a great weekend filled with reflection, but also lots and lots of celebration.

"I feel sometimes like I'm in a movie. Sometimes I feel disconnected because obviously Dan is my husband and the father of my children, but more people saw him as so many other things and people who didn't even know him reached out to me and that's just such a testament to who he was. And I'm so proud of that." More at USA Today

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