Dan Wheldon’s funeral has taken place today in his adopted hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner funeral service began at 10:00 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church in St Petersburg, and well-wishers lined surrounding streets as the procession passed by, en route to a private burial.
Order of Service wrote on the front page “Lionheart Forever”, underneath a picture of Dan Wheldon kissing one of his many trophies – in reference to the driver’s nickname, earned for fearless racing.
Dan Wheldon, 33, died in a fiery 15-car crash at Sunday’s season-ending IndyCar race in Las Vegas.
In a statement on Thursday, Dan Wheldon’s wife, Susie said:
“Though we won’t be able to fit everyone inside, I know that Dan would have wanted the community to share in the celebration of his life and to grieve his passing.”
Susie Wheldon thanked fans for offering support over the past few days, which she described as “unbearable” for the family.
Dan Wheldon is survived by his wife and two young children, Sebastian and Oliver.
Dan Wheldon was one of IndyCar’s most popular drivers and he developed a special bond with fans in both American cities that he called home – Indianapolis and St Petersburg – after moving from his native England.
Fans from Indianapolis and St Petersburg dropped off notes of condolence and items ranging from teddy bears to chequered flags at impromptu memorial sites this week.
“Although the last few days have been unbearable for our family, the overwhelming love and support we have received are rays of sunshine during these dark days,” Susie Wheldon said.
“The outpouring of sympathy and condolences has been so comforting, and I want to thank everyone for their kind notes, letters, gifts and flowers.”
Holly Wheldon, champion’ sister, tweeted yesterday: “Thank you so much to everyone who emailed and tweeted me amazing messages. Really appreciate it. Dan would be proud of all of you. :)”
During his service, country music star Wynonna Judd sang “I Can Only Imagine” and “Amazing Grace” in tribute to Dan Wheldon, known as Lionheart.
Writing on a sponsor’s blog in 2010, Dan Wheldon explained the moniker: “When I first started racing, a lot of the guys said that I raced with a lot of heart, occasionally not my head, but always with a lot of heart, like the way that Richard the Lionheart fought in battle.”
Dan Wheldon was born in Emberton, England. The future champion raced go-karts at the age of four. Dan Wheldon’s father was a go-kart racer and his mother was the timer at a local track.
Dan Wheldon was an IndyCar rookie in 2003 and won his first Indianapolis 500 two years later.
NASCAR drivers will honour Dan Wheldon with a special decal at this weekend’s race in Talladega, Alabama.
Meanwhile, St. Petersburg city council was scheduled to honour Dan Wheldon with a resolution on Thursday afternoon, and IndyCar officials are holding a public memorial service on Sunday afternoon at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indy.
Indy memorial service for Dan Wheldon will open its doors to the public on Sunday at 2:30 p.m., 90 minutes before the service is scheduled to start.
A trust fund for Dan Wheldon’s family has been established. Donations can be sent to Fifth Third Private Bank, attention Dan Wheldon Family Trust, 251 North Illinois St., Suite 1000, Indianapolis, IN 46204.
People wishing to send their condolences to Dan Wheldon family can address letters to The Wheldons, 9600 Koger Blvd N, Ste. 105, St Petersburg, FL 33702.