(Jim, Jeremy, and Captain Blowdri @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway)
It was billed as the IndyCar World Championship weekend on the IndyCar race schedule. I thought that it would be a great getaway for my youngest son, Jeremy, to be able to experience a cool race weekend in Las Vegas. Joining Jeremy and myself was one of my older brothers, Jim.
It was going to be a great boys family weekend in Las Vegas! Jeremy had not been to a big NASCAR or IndyCar race weekend in almost twenty years. It was going to be a time for the three of us to hang out in the RV’s, enjoy some great racing, and for Jeremy and I to have some good, longtime coming, Father/Son time together.
The trip from Fresno to Las Vegas was a 7 hour road trip with Jeremy in my RV. This was a first for him in many ways. It was his first road trip in the RV, his first trip to see the Camping World Trucks, the first time to see the Indy Cars in 20 years, and his first time to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
For all of the seven hours driving to Las Vegas, Jeremy and I talked. We talked about the great time that we both were anticipating it would be, once we were at the race track. We talked about how our relationship had its ups and downs over the years, and where it stands these days. We talked about what LIFE has dealt each of us. We talked about the raising of his son, my grandson, Cole. But mostly we just talked about LIFE!
Through all of the conversations, I tried to depart some “fatherly” wisdom to my youngest son, doing so very carefully.
The next morning, Friday, Jeremy and I went over to the race track. As part of our weekend race tickets we purchased weekend Neon Garage/Paddock passes that gave us free reign to all of the pit road, garage, and any other area in the infield area. During that day we walked throughout both the Trucks and Indy car garage areas, pit road, as well as the technical inspection areas.
While walking down along the pit wall we encountered several of the race car drivers. Some of the drivers included, former Indy Car driver Mario Andretti, Camping World Truck driver Todd Bodine, X Games participant Travis Pastrana, and the 2011 Indy 500 winner, Dan Wheldon. All of the above drivers were captured in photos with Jeremy.
Of those four individuals, the one that stood out in my mind was the jovial Dan Wheldon. On Friday, when Jeremy was talking to Dan Wheldon, he was very upbeat, very positive. He was very sure that he was going to win the $5 million dollar bonus that was posted for the non Indy car regular that could come from the pack of the pack to win the race.
(Jeremy and Dan Wheldon @ LVMS)
On Sunday the IndyCars were the headline. From the drop of the green flag to the eleventh lap, the 34 car field looked like pack of angry bumble bees, running two and three wide all the way around the race track!
Then the unthinkable happened!
One driver made a very small mistake that turned 15 race cars into a pile rubble, three cars blazing on fire, and one very popular, likable British driver, Dan Wheldon, lost his chance to win that $ 5 million dollar bounty by losing his life in that fiery crash in turns 1 and 2 on lap 11of the IZOD IndyCar World Championship race.
Wheldon, 33 years old, left his mark on the race car world by winning the Indy 500 twice, most recently the 2011 race. He was also a past Indy Car Series champion. Today the news was announce that IndyCar Series is naming the newly designed race chassis that will appear next year after Wheldon in his honor.
For the last four days I have been pondering and trying to digest the events of last weekend, all the while trying to make sense out of it. But all that kept popping up in my head is what my Father told me many years ago. My Dad said that, it is not what you take with you when you are gone that is important. However, it is what you leave on Earth when you are gone that is important!
Wheldon will be greatly missed by all who had come into contact with him in his brief stay on this Earth! With just that short conversation with Dan Wheldon along pit road, Jeremy and I had felt like, after the events of Sunday afternoon, we had lost a new friend that day.
Go rest high on that mountain, Dan Wheldon, your work on Earth is now done!
TIL NEXT TIME: ROGER, WILCO, OVER, AND OUT!