In 1999 a young Englishman with a heart for people and a passion for racing, made the move to the US to pursue his dream of becoming a professional driver on the open-wheel racing circuit. This is a move that would forever change the world of IndyCar. Dan Wheldon brought so much heart to the world of open-wheel racing, it was impossible not to be caught up in his infectious energy and passion. His love for what he did and the teammates he worked and raced with was evident in his ever present smile. He would stay long after races were finished to talk with fans, take pictures and sign autographs, even when he was the only driver left, which a lot of the time, he was. His heart was huge and his talent behind the wheel of a car was one of greatness.
In the world of US open-wheel racing, there have been a lot of ups, downs and unknowns throughout the years but the sport got a big boost in 2003. Dan Wheldon, a virtual unknown at the time, was signed on to replace a retiring Michael Andretti. He showcased his talents, placed well and ended up winning the Rookie of the Year title. Dan won his first race in 2004 at Twin Ring Motegi and in 2005 he exploded out of the gates winning four out of five races and setting a new record for most wins in a single season, including his first win at the Indianapolis 500. It was the first win at the Indy 500 by British driver since 1966 and the first for Michael Andretti as a team owner. Dan went on from there to dominate in his next two seasons, winning the Championship in 2005 and tying for the Championship in 2006, while driving for Chip Ganassi Racing.
In early 2007, I decided to take my passion for racing and turn it into a radio show catering to the Tampa Bay market. The Race Report was born. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that it takes awhile to really break into the radio market. Time and again my requests for driver interviews were turned down because my show “did not have a large enough fan base yet.” In February of 2007, I get my first big break when Dan Wheldon, who calls St. Petersburg, FL home, agreed to come on the show. This was going to be a pretty straightforward 10 minute interview. I had prepared all of the questions meticulously and was ready to keep it short and sweet so as not to keep him from what I was assuming were probably more important things, like an interview for SpeedTV or some other big network. Dan had other ideas. [keep reading]