Dwelling on the past prevents progression. Reminiscing, however, is vastly different from dwelling. Reminiscing involves reflection and remembrance and insight. The IndyCar paddock this week did not dwell on the past but reminisced about the life of Dan Wheldon. From his triumphs to his tragedies, from his extraordinary racing talents to his extraordinary family talents.
Few have accomplished what Wheldon had. Two Indianapolis 500 victores, an IndyCar championship, 16 wins in 128 IndyCar starts. For those keeping track, that means Wheldon won nearly 13% of all of his IndyCar races. His talent was profound. His likability was incomparable. But all that was taken from the IndyCar paddock just over a year ago.
Anyone who watched the IndyCar World Championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October of 2011, remembers that race. I remember exactly the scenario when the massive, 15-car pileup unfolded.
I was helping the girl who I was going to marry in less than a month fold laundry. I was DVRing the race but still had it on in the living room. I heard the announcers’ voices escalate and peeked my head into the living room to see its cause. After watching IndyCar racing for 23 years, I witnessed the most rabid and vicious scene to come from a racetrack I had seen. The rest, as they say, is history.
Allow me to jump topics a bit. I admittedly blog infrequently. I have barely been at a racetrack since the birth of my daughter. Just three times. Once at Chicagoland Speedway for a private Firestone test, again for the NASCAR race there and, lastly, at the Milwaukee Mile this June. The void that has arisen from my lack of time in the paddock over the past few years often makes it somewhat saddening to come write a blog. Frankly, I find it counter-productive to write about a topic when I cannot provide visual media to stimulate my own story lines. I miss racing and this often makes it worse. But, this week, I began looking through old pictures of mine from the 2008 and 2009 IndyCar season. I realized I was dwelling on the past.
On a personal note, I need to take my own advice and reminisce. The only way to develop anything further with a career in motorsports is to continue to cultivate the seeds already planted. My degree will finally be complete in under six months. From there, and in the meantime, I must continue to write in this setting. This blog provides the only opportunity, albeit on a personal level, to continue growing as a writer/photographer in motorsports. There are many motivations behind this. But one is IndyCar’s own lesson on how to move on and grow.
IndyCar has used the tragedy that took Wheldon from their own paddock and used it to grow. The new chassis, the DW12, is named such in respect of Wheldon. Through this season the DW12 has proved itself with an impeccable safety record. IndyCar moved away from “pack-racing” and brought back oval races that were more than just engineers competing on aerodynamic setups. Drivers drove the cars. IndyCar used what happened in Vegas as a lesson and largely moved away from the 1.5-mile ovals. In fact, only Texas Motor Speedway remained of the venues.
As painful as Wheldon’s loss was, it pushed the series into motion. That motion is leading into safer, more skilled racing. 2012 provided arguably the best season in IndyCar’s 16-year history and one of the safest. With Wheldon’s influence in setting up the DW12 for the paddock, this year’s phenomenal racing can largely be attributed directly to him. Although he has left us, he has provided many lasting legacies that will long outlive the brashness that surrounded his death.
Although but a fraction of his IndyCar career, I decided to post a sampling of Dan Wheldon from my personal collection, despite some flaws. As we mark a year since his passing, reflect and reminisce on the fantastic talent that was Dan Wheldon. Enjoy.