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Indy 500 Champion Dan Wheldon Dies In Crash

The sport of auto racing lost one of it's most charismatic and dynamic competitors Sunday, when IZOD IndyCar Series driver Dan Wheldon lost his life in a horrifying crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He was 33.

Wheldon, driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in the last race of the 2011 IndyCar season, was one of fifteen drivers involved in the accident at lap 13. The race was not resumed, but drivers made a five-lap parade around the track in honor for their fallen comrade.

Just this past May, Wheldon took his second victory in the Indianapolis 500. It was his 16th IndyCar Series win, ranking fourth all-time. In 2005, the Emberton, England native became the first driver from the United Kingdom to win the 500 since countryman Graham Hill won in 1966.

That season, Wheldon scored six victories and picked up the series championship while driving for Michael Andretti. He moved to Chip Ganassi's team the following season and tied Sam Hornish Jr. for the most points scored, with the title going to Hornish because he had more victories.

Wheldon is the first IndyCar driver to die since Paul Dana was killed during a morning warmup practice at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March 2006. Wheldon edged Helio Castroneves later that day to score the win.

The most recent driver to be killed during a major open wheel race was Greg Moore, who died Halloween 1999 during CART's season-finale at the Auto Club Speedway of Southern California.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.