At the city that he took as his adopted hometown, Dan Wheldon helped usher in a new era for the IZOD IndyCar Series.
The 2005 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was the series’ first-ever event on a road or street course following an all-oval existence that had dated back to its on-track debut in 1996. Not many knew what events to expect in this race, but the final outcome – Wheldon and his three Andretti Green Racing (now Andretti Autosport) teammates sweeping the top four positions – may have been the most unexpected one of all.
On a restart at Lap 91 of 100, Wheldon was sitting in third behind one of those teammates, Tony Kanaan, and leader Ryan Briscoe, then with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. As the field wound its way toward Turn 10, Kanaan would attempt to pass Briscoe for the point but the two made contact that sent Briscoe into the tire barrier.
As that was happening, Wheldon passed them both coming out of Turn 10 and went on to lead the rest of the AGR camp — Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta – to the checkered flag.
“For the whole team, it’s fantastic,” Wheldon said afterwards. “I mean, forget my victory, but just to have me and my three other teammates, who are all very, very close friends, as a 1-2-3-4 is exceptional. It would be very difficult in this series for it to happen again.”
Wheldon’s victory was his second of six he would attain that year — one of which was his first of two Indianapolis 500 triumphs. He went on to clinch the series championship with one race remaining.
Since Wheldon’s death in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the city of St. Petersburg has remembered the man known as “Lionheart” and his accomplishments. Prior to last year’s race, Turn 10 was re-christened as Dan Wheldon Way (pictured), and later this afternoon, a permanent memorial to him will be unveiled at the track.