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<< News >>

Auto Racing News

Friday, 22 July, 2005 11:53 AM

Exclusive Interview with Indy 500 Champion Dan Wheldon

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / AMERICAJR.com

Indy 500 Champion Dan Wheldon at Weber's Inn.

by Jason Rzucidlo
AmericaJR@AmericaJR.com

Dan Wheldon won the 2005 Indy 500 this year. It was a moment that he will never forget as a race car driver. I had the opportunity to interview him at Weber's Inn. He says, "I'm very happy where I'm at."

Wheldon was born on June 22, 1978 in Emberton, England. He curently lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is 5'9" and weights 157 lbs. Guess what ladies, he's single!

He enjoys to go shopping for new clothes. Wheldon likes to go to New York and Chicago for fun. He likes to watch the Indiana Pacers. His favorite foods are Italian and Indian.

On the Indy Car Series: " The series seems to be more and more difficult. I'm a lot more recognized. The championship is made up of 17 races. I've got the big one, the Indianapolis 500. The biggest thing for me is the self-satisfaction."

Wheldon recalls from the moment, "Before the race, I was the points leader. Even at dinner, somebody recognized I was the Indy 500 Winner."

Recently, the media has been focused on the girl driver in the IndyCar series, Danica Patrick. He reports, "I think she's great for the sport. There's no female in a race car that can compare to her."

When asked, do you think she can win, "In Nashville, she had the fastest car in the field. The one thing she's up against is her experience level. I do believe she can win."

How does racing compare from America to Europe? Wheldon answers, "In Europe, they've just started a series that's NASCAR-like. I went to the NASCAR Race recently at Chicagoland."

Many drivers like to race in the Indy 500 just to be in it. Sometimes they're not regular week-to-week drivers. Wheldon adds, "I think you have to be competing in the series to win it."

What is the future like for Dan Wheldon? He answers, "For next year, I don't have a contract. A deal has to be reached."

How do you feel and what is your fan base like? "I think I'm more and more confident. Fifty more thousand fans everywhere."

Why do people come to see Indy races and what makes them come back? Wheldon reports, "They come to the race because of Danica. After seeing that, they would like to come back. The Michigan race is going to be close."

A reporter asked Wheldon about his relation with Dario Franchitti. He says, "Dario has known me ever since I was tiny. You want to inspire to be like him."

In the IndyCar series, some races are on road coureses and others are on oval tracks (NASCAR-like). Which does Wheldon prefer?

"You should go to the venues where you can pack the place out. The majority of pre-season testing was on road courses. This was a predominantly oval series. A lot of the places we go are pretty packed."

Many IndyCar drivers are very young in their 20s or 30s. In Nascar, the drivers are older as they have been doing it for their whole career. Wheldon responds, "People like Rusty Wallace have been there since I was born. A lot of us are still young."

Why does the media promote Danica instead of everyone? "They're constantly trying to promote Danica. You should be pushing everybody. It's the fans that make our sport."

 

One-on-One with Indy 500 Champion Dan Wheldon

LISTEN to this one-on-one interview: (.MP3) (.WAV) (Quicktime)

Question: Who inspired you to start racing?

Answer: My father. I raced in go-carts. That's what got me into it from the age of four years old. I've been heavily involved ever since.

Q: What was your first race car?

A: I first raced in open-wheel racing in 1996. It was a single seater with a 1600 CC engine.

Q: What is your favorite part of racing in the IRL series?

A: I think the competition and the fact that you get to compete in the Indianapolis 500. That's what does it for me. The Indianapolis 500 is something i'm very keen on. Would love to race in for many years to come.

Q: Describe the feeling...You have just won the Indy 500!!

A: Very emotional would be the words that I would use. I'm never one to really cry but I couldn't hold it back that day. The race means a lot to everybody involved and when your able to win that at such a young age it's particularly special. I also remember drinking the milk. The Indy 500 is famous for the winner drinking the milk. That was pretty special. I think that was the biggest realization of me having won the race.

Q: What is your favorite race track?

A: Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I'm not just saying that because I won the race. It's the most challenging. It's the most rewarding. For me, it's the most fun too.

Q: What do you like about MIS?

A: How fast the track is and how close you run with your competitors. It's a very, very intense race. I love the speed like I say, the intensity of the race, closeness of the competition and the fact that you can run three or four wide.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / AMERICAJR.com

Dan Wheldon being interviewed by the media.

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