Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg pays tribute to Dan Wheldon by renaming street after him

ST. PETERSBURG — The spot where Dan Wheldon made the crucial pass to win IndyCar's inaugural Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is now named for the city's adopted son.

The city paid tribute to the late two-time Indianapolis 500 champion on Wednesday, renaming a stretch "Dan Wheldon Way" on part of the circuit used for the downtown street race.

Wheldon's widow, Susie, spoke at a brief public dedication ceremony, which included Mayor Bill Foster and several City Council members as well as series CEO Randy Bernard and most of the drivers.

"I am so proud and blessed to be part of this community and to be able to call St. Petersburg home," Susie Wheldon said. "(Sons) Sebastian and Oliver will be so proud to know the impact that their father had on this community and on the world of motorsports."

Wheldon, 33, was killed in October in an IndyCar crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. His car took off after touching the rear wheel of another car, went into the catch fence and struck a pole. The race was not completed.

"We ended (last season) unfortunately with Dan's tragedy," driver Ryan Hunter-Reay said. "I think everybody is still wearing that scar a little bit. We're opening up in his hometown. No better way to celebrate it than going out and having a great event, a huge event, a competitive one."

Wheldon won his second Indianapolis 500 last year, driving for Bryan Herta Motorsports. That Indy deal was announced last year at the Mahaffey Theater, just a few hundred yards from where Wednesday's ceremony occurred.

The portion of the race course named Dan Wheldon Way is near the Dali Museum where Bay Shore Drive connects along the waterfront to the runway at Albert Whitted Airport. It begins in Turn 10 where Wheldon passed Ryan Briscoe and Tony Kanaan for good in his 2005 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg victory.

"It's so fitting this corner down here now being named after Dan," Briscoe said. "He won the race. It was after a midrace collision between myself and Kanaan down in this corner. This corner named after Dan … is perfect."

The series will run its first race since Las Vegas on March 25 in St. Petersburg to open its 2012 season. Many drivers had Wheldon in mind Wednesday as they spoke at media day.

"I think it will be emotional, maybe for some more than others," Scott Dixon said. "It's going to be tough, but I think it's also a nice way to start the season, almost like it was written."

Race vice president and general manager Tim Ramsberger said that, in addition to the street name, there would also be two plaques erected later this year in the area of Turn 10. One will be dedicated to Wheldon, and the other will include the race logo and names of the previous race winners in St. Petersburg.

"The number of ideas and suggestions that have come to us on ways to pay tribute to Dan has just been overwhelming," Ramsberger said.

With the memorial site dedicated, the series and the city will try to start moving on from the tragedy when the drivers return to race again.

"It's been the longest offseason of my life," said Marco Andretti, Wheldon's teammate at Andretti Green in 2006. "We're all going to be driving St. Pete with heavy hearts. The way I persevere and keep going is I look at Dan as a competitor. So we're going to show up and compete.

"Just coming here, every time I come here I think of Dan. I know he was very proud of this city and this race."

Susie Wheldon, wife of late IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, holds son Sebastian as driver Ryan Hunter-Reay greets her.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Susie Wheldon, wife of late IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, holds son Sebastian as driver Ryan Hunter-Reay greets her.

Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

When/where: March 25; downtown. Six racing series take part in the March 23-25 weekend, headlined by IndyCar race March 25.

Tickets: gpstpete.com or call toll-free 1-877-283-5385

St. Petersburg pays tribute to Dan Wheldon by renaming street after him 03/07/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 11:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For starters: Rays at Twins, looking for another with Odorizzi starting

    Blogs

    The Rays are looking to keep rolling when they make a quick turnaround after Friday's win over the Twins and are back on the field for a matinee today, 2:10 first pitch Tampa Bay time.

    RHP Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, coming off a good but not great start against the Angels, though buoyed …

  2. Why the Lightning would consider trading Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — This summer, the Lightning could trade one of its most dynamic young players ever.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates with his team on the bench after beating Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) to score his second goal of the period and to tie the score at 4 to 4 during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday evening (03/27/17).
  3. Why the Lightning should keep Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    Keep him.

    Jonathan Drouin is live bait. The Lightning is ready to run the hook through him and cast him out there again. Drouin has enough talent for the Lightning to meet some defensive needs in a deal.

    Keep him.

    Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin celebrates after beating Los Angeles Kings goalie Peter Budaj during the first period of Tuesday's win in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  4. This Tampa Bay Lightning wing rides the newest wave of fan interaction

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There are photos of Lightning fan Shaun Egger as a toddler at center ice at the then-Thunderome, aka Tropicana Field. He's played in the Lightning's high school hockey league for Palm Harbor University. But his closest personal encounter with players had been waving through a crowd after a training camp …

    Tampa Bay Lightning player J.T. Brown wears his anti UV glasses as he talks over the headset with a hockey fan while they play against each other on line in an XBOX NHL video game in Brown's game room at his home in south Tampa. The fan chose to be the Washington Capitals and Brown, of course, was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brown interacts with fans through video game systems as he streams the games live on Twitch with plans for the proceeds to go to charity.
  5. ‘Biggest fight' behind her, Petra Kvitova returns ahead of schedule

    Tennis

    PARIS — Five months after a home invader's knife sliced into her left hand, Petra Kvitova will return to competitive tennis at the French Open, a last-minute decision to make her comeback earlier than expected.

    Petra Kvitova adjusts her hair during a news conference at Roland Garros Stadium, where she will make her tennis return at the French Open. Kvitova's left hand was badly injured by a knife-wielding intruder in December; she has recovered ahead of schedule. [Associated Press]