I was watching the IndyCar Championship with my four year old son when it happened. I turned it off immediately knowing something bad had happened. A fiery fifteen car crash that looked as terrifying as anything I had ever seen. I couldn't have imagined it was this bad.
I've been to the Indianapolis 500 almost every year since I was 14. I'm not a huge auto racing fan, but I definitely know more than the average sports fan and I love IndyCar racing. The first time I met Dan Wheldon was at a breakfast meeting and I had no idea what it was going to be like. Even though I was older than him and we were meeting for business purposes -- he was an early and active supporter of Simraceway, a video racing game start-up I was working with -- he was an Indy 500 champion and I felt honored to meet him. Within five minutes, it was like I had known him for years; he was busting the chops of my boss, making fun of himself and acting, generally, like the gregarious, funny person that came across in every interview I had seen. As he ate breakfast, he joked with the waiter about why a race car driver would worry about the relative healthiness -- he was eating oatmeal -- of breakfast before driving 200+ miles per hour. He was someone I instantly liked. And I think everyone else felt the same way.
In the brief time that I met him, you could tell Dan was a really big kid doing what he loved. He was obsessed with talking about his two young boys and appreciation for his better half, something we held in common. My favorite moment was after qualifications, the day before the Sonoma race. He was testing out our race simulator and to be dragged out of the racing simulator to go to the corporate sponsored event. All he wanted to do was keep playing and racing. As soon as I heard the news, all I could think about was his kids losing a their fun-loving father.
Everyone knows that racing is dangerous. Everyone knows that this could happen. But you never expect it and you never prepare for it. Dan knew that too. He tried everything he could to get in a car this year, and when it finally happened he experienced the highest high and, sadly, the lowest low.
Please join me in a prayer for his wife and kids today.