Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Dan Wheldon Tribute story...

While I’m sure that everybody has a Dan Wheldon story, especially with the over pouring sentiments towards ‘Ol Dannyboy... While I found the tribute piece aired by ABC during last Sunday’s St Pete Pre-race to be most excellent and hence, wanted to publish my take before it faded away, since I just haven’t been able to focus upon it since last October...

Wheldon standing by car - in 2011. (PbC)
So naturally I had already booked my Aeroplane ticket to The Valley of the Sun - for Monday Oct 17 one month prior to the ‘los wages HOOZE YOUR DADDY SWEEPSTAKES CATASTROPHY... And hence, your Humble Scribe was literally burned out from starin’ at ze Confuzer screen way too long poondin’ out stories - before having spent the Sunday evening’s later hours listening to a very moving and thought provoking Speed Freaks 2hr retrospective on the lives of Dan Wheldon and Rick Huseman.

And as typical in the travails of my Blogging history, when everybody was tunin’ into the No Fenders ‘BLOB in search of information upon the late DannyBoy ‘SPIKE Wheldon - and my traffic count was going thru the roof, your humble scribe instead had a ‘Canned story about another fallen Hero, The Godfather of Hydroplanes, aka Bill Muncey posted instead during his week’s sojourn...


And I’ll admit that at first I didn’t even know of Wheldon and then didn’t become aware of the cocky Englishman until 2005 when he won the Indianapolis 500 for the first time, despite being overshadowed by somebody named Danica; Hmm? How ironic that the only two years Mrs. Hospenthal led laps at the Speedway Messer Wheldon was victorious, eh?

And originally I thought of him as nothing more then a bit over the top, as I already said he was cocky, albeit I guess I should have liked him since after all he came from Across-thee-Pond, trying to cut his teeth upon the Formula 1 ladder - having squared off against the likes of ‘JENSE, (Jenson Button) ‘ANT (Anthony Davidson) and Gary Paffet who’ve had differing degrees of success in F1. Along with butting heads with Dashley LePew (Dario) and younger brother Marino Franchitti in Go Karts, etc; yet nevertheless, he’d escaped my radar screen since I don’t typically follow the feeder series abroad...

Having won his title and 500 with Andretti Greeen Racing as part of the Four Musketeers, nee Dario “REO Speedwagon” Franchitti, ‘TK “Follow-your-Schnoz” Kanaan and Bryan “High Speed Hurdles” Herta, I began having fun joining in on the joking about his shoe collection and his teeth, although I finally got a glimpse of his quick witted humour when he wore that insanely humourous button of his then boss ‘Cheep Ganassi on a Wind Tunnel interview that ‘Ol R (robin Miller) had lent him...

Unfortunately, Dan then fell afoul of my disgust towards anybody Shilling for the National Guard car - as I wholeheartedly believe that the Military should NOT be allowed to sponsor Motorsports... Which leaves me in a pickle, since I like J.R. Hildebrand and he was kind enough to grant me an interview before moving up to the ‘BigCarz...


Yet I suppose age is a fickle Mistress? As I know exactly the moment I crossed over to being a HUGE Fan ‘O wheldon’s, which should have never happened in the first place, after Dan split from John Barnes & Panther Racing somewhat acrimoniously. (As hopefully they paid Wheldon his disputed salary that Wheldon had filed a lawsuit against the team for prior to his death...)

It was during his Versus TV booth guest Colour Commenting gig that I became a ‘Mega Wheldon supporter, as he  was a natural fit and really livened it up quite a bit - before things really began to pickup for the BLOODY BRIT, with his ride for Indy, his Dallara testing job and ultimately his re-joining Mikey Andretti’s race team.

Thus, I feel quite fortunate that I was in attendance at the Speedway last May in what sadly would become Wheldon’s final career victory, as not only was the race’s ending a thriller, but the victory lap was even sweeter, albeit I got a bit tired  of Dan proclaiming he’d be wearing his WillyWrap’s jeans the next evening at the victory banquet...

Wheldon Struts his Stuff on “Red Carpet” - Night after 2011 I500. (PbC)
And thus, by just plain, shear luck (OH CRAP! I forgot to buy my Mega Millions lottery ticket) MR. CARPETS was kind enough to take me Downtown to the J.W. Marriott to take a look-see and see if we could spot any of the drivers entering the Banquet? Of which led us to walking up to the entry door and getting to witness several drivers arrival, albeit I couldn’t see anybody from behind our very small privileged vantage point of the few Paparazzi allowed to stand up close to the entryway... Although this action did garner me a ‘Quickie with Danica; Hya! Hmm? There we go again, with DannaCar trying to steal ‘SPIKE’s limelight!

Yet what so thoroughly impressed me during that short time we were allowed to stand there was that not only was Wheldon the only driver to come outside ‘N mingle multiple times... He was actually willing to talk to us! As he was the only driver that evening to interact with the crowd. As another person standing there in our little grouping jovially asked Dan: “Where’s your Levi’s?” to which Dan immediately cracked back: “Oh NO, you mean my William Rast’s...” As Dapper Dan had gone GQ for the evening!

And while I’m not claiming that the other drivers don’t interact with Fans equally as well as Wheldon did; as I was quite happy to see every single driver stop and sign the young girl’s cap... It’s just the memory I cherish the most of Wheldon, as he appeared to be the only one willing to mingle with  us little people on the Post-evening of his second victory at the Speedway and seemed the only one willing to go out of his way to do so...


(PbC: Photos Courtesy of No Fenders ‘Offical Photographer ‘CARPETS)

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