March 08, 2012 | By Dave Lewandowski - INDYCAR.COM
Adopted hometown pays tribute to Wheldon
The corner of Bayshore Drive and Albert Whitted Park -- aka Turn 10 of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg -- is an appropriate spot to pay tribute to Dan Wheldon.
It was Turn 10 where Wheldon overtook Ryan Briscoe and went on to win the inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series street race on April 3, 2005, leading a sweep of the top four positions for then-Andretti Green Racing.
A few hours later, Wheldon jumped into Tampa Bay to celebrate. Seven weeks later, he won the first of his two Indianapolis 500 titles and doused himself in milk and champagne.
Wheldon, the 2005 series champion who moved to St. Petersburg in 2005, died from injuries suffered in a race crash in October. His wife Susie and two young sons still call the community home.
Three weeks before the eighth annual race, Mayor Bill Foster and Susie Wheldon unveiled a street sign at Turn 10, which will be known at Dan Wheldon Way. A few yards away, a permanent memorial honoring Wheldon will be erected this fall. It will contain names of all winners of Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
"I want to take this opportunity to than our St. Petersburg family for all the love and support the past several months," said Susie Wheldon, whose sons were exploring the course while she addressed the crowd. "I am so proud and blessed to be able to call St. Petersburg home. I want to thank the city, the Honda Grand Prix and American Honda for recognizing Dan in such a special way. This is something that we can cherish for years to come. Sebastian and Oliver will be proud to know the impact their father had in this community and the world of motorsports."
Foster, offficials from the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, INDYCAR drivers and officials, representatives of American Honda Motor Co. and the public attended the noon dedication ceremony.
"I know that Dan adored the personal relationship with each one of (the drivers)," said Foster, who counted Wheldon among the members of the city's Sports Alliance. "I saw it in his eyes, I saw it in his actions, and he told me so. His City of St. Petersburg, his adopted hometown, loved Dan Wheldon. Not as a drivers, which was kind of cool, but we loved Dan Wheldon as a neighbor and somebody we could rely upon to do great things in sports.
"He was about so much more than racing."
A day earlier, an image of Wheldon celebrating his 2011 Indianapolis 500 victory was unveiled as the featured element of the 2012 admission ticket for "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
"A few of us went to dinner last night and were telling stories about Dan, and there are a lot of them," four-time series champion and two-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti said. "But then you realize he's not here, and that's the bad part."