Racing Comments, Paul Dana, Dan Wheldon

Wheldon Pours Milk 2011

Dan Wheldon died seven days ago in an Indy car wreck in Las Vegas. NASCAR will honor him today at Talladega. There have been services in Indianapolis and his adopted home of Florida.

I want to also remember Paul Dana, with whom I worked in Bellingham. Wheldon is the first Indy driver to die in a race-related crash since Dana was killed during warm-up laps in March 2006 at Miami-Homstead Raceway.

Paul Dana edited when I did PR for all EWRX Internet Systems online properties. As an EWRX employee, I also wrote for him. Dana, like the reports I read regarding Wheldon was,

Paul Dana

simply put, a nice guy. Dana, however, did not rocket to racing success like Wheldon. He worked hard at it. In an early piece he wrote introducing himself on, he explained why aspiring drivers have personal cars that look so bad – every dime goes into the race car.

I was paying attention to the Vegas race because the championship was on-the-line between Franchitti (Target-Ganassi Racing) and Will Power (Penske Racing). But also because Sarah Fisher Racing’s Ed Carpenter was starting third’ and had just won the previous race in Kentucky, providing Fisher her first team win.

Ed Carpenter

Racing is very intertwined. When Paul Dana and I were at EWRX, the company had a relationship with Derrick Walker Racing, including their new rookie sensation, Sarah Fisher. I handled some PR events for Fisher and Walker in conjunction EWRX events in Vancouver, BC. Sarah was the pre-Danica. She went back to school after a few years of driving, studied engineering and formed her own team. Over the years Walker Racing recruited many leading drivers, including Will Power, now racing for the championship at Penske.

Jump back to Wheldon. Before joining Andretti-Green Racing and winning his first Indianapolis 500, he wore the bright red colors of Target-Ganassi. His Andretti-Green teammates included Franchitti, Tony Kannan, Bryan Herta, and later Danica Patrick, among others. Franchitti won the championship last week in Vegas for Ganassi. Bryan Herta owned the race car Wheldon used to win his second Indianapolis 500 race this year. And Herta also was Derrick Walker’s driver when EWRX went to the Long Beach Gran Prix to roll out its Walker Racing announcement. As I said, very intertwined.

Rice, Wheldon, Miera

An aside on Wheldon’s humor: When he won the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti, Danica Patrick, racing for Rahal-Letterman, became the first woman to lead laps at Indy and she finished fourth. She became a media sensation. Sensing the lack of media attention at his achievement, Wheldon printed a t-shirt that said, “Actually won the Indy 500”, and Patrick’s Rahal-Letterman teammate and former Indy winner Buddy Rice, got a shirt that said “Danica’s Teammate”. Vitor Miera’s shirt said “Danica’s Other Teammate”.

To add further irony to the intertwined nature of Indy racing, Patrick is leaving Andretti Autosport for NASCAR. Dan Wheldon was slated to take over that car and again race for Andretti. And Paul Dana’s ride for his fatal crash, Rahal-Letterman, with teammates Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice. The driver Dana crashed into, Ed Carpenter, who started third in Vegas for Sarah Fisher.

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Disclaimer: This has little to do with moving to Sweden. There is the tangential connection to Kenny Brack, who was a Swedish driver who won Indy in the ‘90s. He left the sport after trying to return following a severe accident. And I wrote a bit about this on Facebook, but this is my blog, so what the hell.