Something most people don't know about me is that I love IndyCar. The sleek cars, the high speeds, the charismatic drivers-- I soak it in.
My friends don't get it. "They're cars driving in circles. What's so exciting about that? It's boring. And why don't you like football again?"
Maybe it's because my dad has always been a fan of auto-racing. I can remember sitting on his lap when I was just a little girl as he watched the chassis zoom around the track, listen to him talk about the speed and the rules and the drivers and the teams and pit crews and everything else that he could. He took my family to Chicagoland Speedway back in 2009 and I remember driving up there, leaning in, listening to him talk about his favorite drivers and who he wanted to win. I asked him who was the best, and what countries everyone was from, and decided I would always root for the Aussies and the Brits.
I still watch races with him. I love it. I'm not a rabid fan, but I know that Indycar is better than Nascar and I will tell you as much while I wear my Target-Chip Ganassi sweatshirt in honor of my favorite driver, Scott Dixon. I like to know who's on the pole. I will groan if it's someone I can't stand, cheer when I love them, or demand "Who's that?" if it's someone who had previously escaped my attention.
I was watching with him yesterday. The race was being held in Las Vegas, Nevada, and 12 laps in there was a fifteen car pileup.
Dan Wheldon lost his life yesterday.
I sat there for an hour with my father, waiting, watching as they went to a red flag, as they rushed him to the medical center, and flew him out in an emergency helicopter, and I prayed that whole hour and prayed and prayed that he was safe, that he would recover, that he would be all right.
When it first happened I knew. I knew that he wasn't going to be okay. But sitting there, watching, I convinced myself that he was going to be fine, he was going to be all right, and he would be fine, and he would survive.
I had to go, and I was with my friend when my dad called me inside.
"Dan Wheldon died," he said, staring at the other drivers driving a five-lap tribute. Tears were in his eyes.
Dan was British, and daddy and I talked about him all the time. We made fun of him sometimes, and I complained when he beat Scotty and I didn't want him to. We said he sounded like the Geico gecko, and giggled because it was true.
He lost his contract this year, though, and I was so confused. I wanted to know how that happened. Dan Wheldon had to race. He was such a defining part of IndyCar for me. He couldn't not race.
When I heard he was driving in the Indy 500, I was excited. He deserved to at least compete in that race.
My parents watched him win it. They were there in the stands. My dad watched it again with me on the TV when he got home. We were all so happy-- Dan was incredibly charismatic, and deserved so much to win. It was like something out of a fairy tale-- it was a one-time ride, for this one race, and he won. He wasn't going to race again this year.
We saw him a day or so before the 500, at a IndyCar burger bash at a local shake shop, and he made me smile. He was so personable. He talked about his wife and his two little boys, Sebastian and Oliver, both less than five years old, and you could tell he loved them so much.
He was 33. One of the best drivers in the IRL, one of the best people there. No one wanted this. I cried for an hour last night. I can't stop crying today.
My heart hurts for the Wheldon family right now.
Dear God, he has sons.
If you would, please pray for them.