Dan Wheldon’s Indy 500 legacy lives on through his sons

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 30: (FILE PHOTO) Obituaries In 2011: As 2011 comes to a close, we look at 25 famous personalities that have died in 2011.
Please refer to the following profile on Getty Images Archival for further imagery and additional Obituaries of 2011. http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/EditorialImages/Archival?parentEventId=107851819

Dan Wheldon of England, driver of the #98 William Rast-Curb/Big Machine Dallara Honda gestures to photographers during the 95th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race Trophy Presentation at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 30, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

(NewsNation) —Only 73 people throughout the more than centurylong history of the Indianapolis 500 can stake claim as a “champion” of the event. Even fewer still have won the legendary race more than once.

Dan Wheldon is one of those rare racers to reside in the exclusive club of holding multiple wins at the Indianapolis 500. He grabbed his first at the event in 2005, then finished second in both 2009 and 2010 before winning the race again in 2011.

This year’s running of the Indy 500 takes off at 12:30 ET Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Wheldon was building a legacy as one of the greatest drivers in the history of the Indianapolis 500. But after his last win in 2011, tragedy struck and Wheldon would never again race.

On Oct. 16, 2011 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Wheldon died after he was unable to avoid a crash in front of him and his car went airborne before crashing into the track’s fence. He died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Wheldon left behind not only one of the greatest legacies in racing history but also a wife and two sons. His wife Susie said sometimes it feels like Wheldon’s death happened “just yesterday.”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 30: Dan Wheldon of England, driver of the #98 William Rast-Curb/Big Machine Dallara Honda poses with Borg Warner Trophy on the yard of bricks and son, Sebastian Wheldon during the 95th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race Trophy Presentation at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 30, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

“With two babies, I look back at even some pictures and things like that and it’s kind of fuzzy, you know. You’re in and out of grief, and I was just kind of trying to pick the pieces back up and put them back together in some way I knew how,” Susie Wheldon told NewsNation.

Susie and Dan’s sons, 13-year-old Sebastian and 10-year-old Oliver, are now following in their father’s footsteps, pursuing a life on the racetrack. Both boys race in the Andretti Racing junior development program.

“It’s a great way for them to keep his legacy alive and it’s definitely a dream that he had for them,” Susie said.

Sebastian and Oliver both compete at the national level in carting and have wins under their belts.

“The boys have just kind of been immersed in it, obviously, since they were born,” Susie said. “And certainly after Dan passed, we were still able to just be around all the time, especially at the Indy 500. So they certainly have a love for racing.”

The wins do not come easily, however, for the boys, and Susie hopes they take away lessons from their losses as well. She supports them as best she can, but as a mother whose husband died on the racetrack, worry lingers about her sons racing.

“As the boys get older, the stakes get a lot higher, and that is something that can be quite scary,” Susie said. “But I do feel at home when I’m at the track with them, and there’s a sense of peace with what they’re doing.”

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