ST. PETERSBURG — Sebastian Wheldon knows all about the racing success of his late father, St. Petersburg’s Dan Wheldon. His 2005 IndyCar Series championship. His two Indianapolis 500 triumphs.
“I just want to do what my dad did,” Sebastian said.
The 12-year-old and his younger brother, Oliver, got a boost in that direction Saturday when they officially joined IndyCar power team Andretti Autosport as junior drivers.
Though the Wheldon boys are still years away from climbing the IndyCar ladder and competing in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, they’re moving in that direction. Sebastian and Oliver, 10, are both accomplished go-kart racers.
It’s no surprise to anyone who knew their father, who was killed in an IndyCar crash at Las Vegas in 2011. That includes Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti; Dan Wheldon drove for his Andretti Green Racing team from 2003-05.
“These kids are the real deal,” team CEO Michael Andretti said.
With that talent comes great responsibility —and a lot of work. The boys played soccer and lacrosse but gave those up to focus on racing.
Their mother, Susie, closed her downtown retail shop in the fall of 2019 to help them pursue their passion.
“We’ll see where it takes us,” Susie said. “I can’t deny them that.”
The Andretti deal will be a big help.
Oliver and Sebastian will carry that historic brand with them into three national karting series (Rok Cup USA, Super Karts USA and Untied State Pro Kart Series). Andretti will mentor them and help them navigate the junior ranks as they approach the Road to Indy developmental program that might eventually lead them to IndyCar.
Though their father has been gone for a decade, he continues to have an imprint on this series and this race. Saturday’s announcement came in front of the track’s Dan Wheldon monument — a plaque that’s a tribute to Wheldon’s life, of course, but also his racing accomplishments.
“Someday,” Oliver said, “I want mine to be next to his.”