Two-time Indianapolis 500 champ Dan Wheldon died yesterday after a horrific crash in the opening laps of the Las Vegas Indy 300.
The English driver, 33, was caught in a fiery 15-car pileup at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He was flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital but succumbed to “unsurvivable injuries,” IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard said in a statement.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family today,” Bernard said.
Wheldon won the 2005 Indy Racing League title, as well as the ’05 and ’11 Indianapolis 500s.
The race was canceled immediately after the accident, but drivers returned to the track for an emotional five-lap tribute with Wheldon’s fellow British driver, Dario Franchitti, sobbing uncontrollably as he was strapped back into his car.
Crews lined up along the pit lane and fans in the stands stood silently as the drivers paid tribute to the popular Wheldon.
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The canceling of the race meant that Franchitti won his third straight series title.
Wheldon moved to the U.S. after winning eight British national titles in karting and then finishing third in the 1998 Formula Ford championship.