Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Indy racing loses a star


I know that I'm only a racing fan in passing, and that when I do make note of it, I am usually more interested in NASCAR than Indy Car, simply because it's easier to identify with as an American. Still, the Indy 500 has impressed it's mark on me, having lived there and still being proud to have, for a time, called Indiana home.
The stars of the Indy 500 were some of the biggest sports stars in Indiana, from Andretti to Unser of old to Franchitti, Castroneves, Hornish, Kanaan and Wheldon of today.
Wheldon. As you surely have heard, Dan Wheldon lost his life in a crash at the Las Vegas motor speedway over the weekend. The two time winner of the Indy 500 was one of the best drivers in the world. Consider that when he won the 500 in May, he did so on a one race agreement with the owners of his car. He won the race on skill more than equipment. There are few drivers that can make the claim so effectively as Wheldon did. 
Wheldon is perhaps the most famous competitor to die in competition since Dale Earnhardt. There haven't been many comparisons between the two, because other than the circumstances of their deaths and their success on the track, there are few similarities. The cars, of course, are different, as well as their nationalities. Earnhardt had a long career, whereas Wheldon's was near it's beginning. Earnhardt was a driver's driver, known for his intimidating style (even called the Intimidator), whereas Wheldon was renown for his charm. Indeed, he was delightful in interviews, and was always comfortable in the traditional Letterman interview after winning the 500. If you liked racing, you liked Earnhardt. You didn't have to enjoy racing to like Wheldon.
I heard a quote soon after Wheldon's death was announced. "It has been said that racing and boxing are the only real sports cause the specter of death hangs over them, and everything else is a game." Of course, there are others who feel that anything without a ball is not a sport. If you ask me, however, it will definitely take balls to get back in the car next May.
RIP, Dan Wheldon.

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