October 16th, 2011.
Still remembering that day like yesterday.
While I was studying for my final tests in School, I couldn’t follow IndyCar very close that year due other commitments also half of the races were in SPEED.
I knew about the Championship Race at Las Vegas. Dario Franchitti and Will Power (runner-up in 2009 and 2010) were in contention for the Championship, it was also Danica Patrick’s final race in IndyCar before moving full time to NASCAR and Dan Wheldon was making his return after winning the Indy 500 in May in a wacky last lap and also Dan was chasing the 5 million bonus and was the final race for the old Dallara chassis.
I remember Dan’s interview for ABC on the team radio, he was pretty excited his limited schedule year was so success with Brian Herta’s team i don’t remember Dan’s words but he was happy…
Then on lap 11…..
“Go low, Go low!” That voice of that spotter still in my head until these days, when someone talks about the crash that voice come into my head and the images of the crash come to my head.
I was shocked but I thought “oh yeah everyone’s fine, cars are safe” even I joked about it because it was the final race of that chassis but not for that they have to wreck it!.
But something was wrong. Dan didn’t climb out of his car by his own. I knew he was hurt but not so seriously……
Dan was taken by helicopter to the hospital, I said to myself “He’ll be fine”.
Those two hours where the longest hours of my life, most longer than doing a test in School.
For the first time ever I was concern about the health of a Driver.
As a kid I’ve always saw them walking away or in a stretch but doing the “thumbs up” gesture after a crash but this was not the case.
Checking Twitter every minute looking for some update meanwhile ESPN was showing the crash over and over doing an analysis about the crash.
Rumors started to arrive many of them with one thing in common “he die”.
Moments later i saw Drivers going to the press room in Las Vegas.
Then…the announcement came.
Randy Bernard came sat on the press room, took the microphone and said those words.
I couldn’t believe it; I was shocked nearly in tears and then the 5 lap salute came up with the remaining Cars of 34.
The emotional breakdown came when Alex Pombo, ESPN IndyCar commentarist and Dan’s friend said those words.
“Enjoy life, enjoy what you have, enjoy who you are, enjoy your family, enjoy your job and enjoy every twilight and every day because we didn’t realize how fragile life is and how human beings complain about things that we don’t like but this show that we must enjoy every second of it”
And I couldn’t hold it more and I cried I was emotionally destroyed, I grew up watching Wheldon racing, winning races, winning Championships and now he was gone….
For the next two weeks my mind was in a kind of bummer. Every time i was thinking about his death my mind was saying at me “This can be true, It’s impossible!”
I was 10 years old when Dan won his first Indy 500. i saw that race in my parents room because i couldn’t find the remote control of my TV (LOL).
Everyone was talking about a Girl called Danica Patrick, when she became the first woman to lead at the Indy 500 i was surprise even I thought she could have won that Race, a Rookie winning the Indy 500 and yes I was rooting for her.
She did not win the race but she made history meanwhile Dan was the first British Driver to win the Indy 500 since Graham Hill in 1966 but Danica took the whole spotlight.
When Dan his second Indy 500 with BHA in that last lap……I mean it was unbelievable, Hildebrand had one turn to go, one fucking turn for the win and it was gone.
Brian was so happy he was starting his own team and already have a win, the most important, at Indy. That put Dan back in the map of Racing World.
I always remember Dan for his charisma with sense of humor alongside his British accent, his Fashionista style and of course his talent behind the wheel.
Long live to Lionheart, Long live to Dan Wheldon, as we say here “Daniel, el terrible”.