1998 FORMULA FORD UK
The Indy 500 is central to Dan Wheldon’s story, but there are plenty of other big days, too.
1998 FORMULA FORD BATTLE IN UK
His last year before leaving for the U. S.
was a spirited one, competing against
Jenson Button for the British Formula
Ford Championship. It was his second
year in the series after winning races in
his rookie season and, before that,
contending for the 1996 Formula Vauxhall
Junior title. Wheldon – then known as
“Daniel” – won four races in 1998. His
third came after a controversial collision
with factory Van Diemen teammate
Marcos Ambrose at Oulton Park. His final
win came in the first of two races at
Silverstone, with Button second in a field
that also included future Formula 1 driver
Nicolas Kiesa and Porsche Supercup
champion Jeroen Bleekemolen.
2000 WINS ATLANTIC DEBUT AT HOMESTEAD
Wheldon had an affinity for Homestead – he won three straight
IndyCar Series races there from 2005 through ’07. But his first
win at the Florida venue came not on the 1.5-mile oval, but on
the infield road course in a doubleheader weekend of the Toyota
Atlantic series in March, 2000. Wheldon beat the polesitter in
the race – eventual champion Buddy Rice – to take a victory on
his series debut. He won once more in 2000, at Laguna Seca,
and finished second to Rice in the final points.
2004 RICHMOND FROM THE BACK
At the shortest track IndyCar raced on,
the 0.75-mile Richmond International
Raceway, it was very difficult to stay on
the lead lap if you had a poor starting
position. In 2004, Wheldon started 20th
there after battling an ill-handling car in
qualifying. But an early call from his
team manager, Tony Cotman, prompted
a stop on lap 14 under yellow and the
off-sequence strategy helped in
promoting Wheldon up the order. He still
wasn’t sure of pulling off an unexpected
win until another caution helped stretch
the fuel numbers out far enough. It gave
him his second win of ’04, and was also
the farthest back he’d start for a
race-winning drive in his whole career.
2004 FIRST INDYCAR WIN IS HONDA’S FIRST AT MOTEGI
When IndyCar racing had multiple engine manufacturers, Twin
Ring Motegi was always a bit of a sore point for Honda. Prior to
2004, Honda hadn’t won at its home track in six appearances.
Wheldon, the ’03 Rookie of the Year, had gone winless in his first
full season. Both streaks were put to bed when he scored his first
IndyCar Series win in dominant style, leading 192 of 200 laps
from pole in an Andretti Green Racing 1-2 with Tony Kanaan.