St. Petersburg course honors Dan Wheldon with statue
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) The city of St. Petersburg honored Dan Wheldon on Thursday with a monument to the late driver on the street circuit in his adopted hometown.
The monument at Turn 10 includes bricks from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, stones from his native England and the handprints of his wife and two sons. It's located near the sign marking "Dan Wheldon Way" that was dedicated last year.
"Me and the boys were able to make our handprints in the concrete and I am so grateful to be able to make moments like that, just so they 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," Susie Wheldon said as son Oliver, who turned 2 on Tuesday, played with the microphone at the podium.
Wheldon, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner was killed in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas.
All of the current IndyCar drivers were on hand for the unveiling and many posed for photos with Susie Wheldon after. She's scheduled to wave the green flag for Sunday's season-opening race after skipping the event last year.
"I'm looking forward to a great weekend filled with reflection, but also lots and lots of celebration," she said. "A year from now, 10 years from now, I feel like I'll always be a part of the IndyCar family."
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster called Wheldon "our favorite son in auto racing" and praised the Wheldon family for embracing St. Pete as normal residents.
"Yet Dan was everything but normal," Foster said. "He was an extraordinary father, and extraordinary citizen and an extraordinary driver."
Dario Franchitti, one of Wheldon's former teammates and a pallbearer at his funeral, spent time with Susie Wheldon and her sons before the unveiling and could see his friend's spirit in his boys.
"The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree with those two, I'll tell you," Franchitti said. "The first thing they both wanted to do was jump on the golf cart and go for a ride around the track. 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."