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We lost Dan Wheldon five years ago — but his memory will live on forever

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Sunday marked the fifth anniversary of the tragic death of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon.

Just 4 ½ months after winning the Indianapolis 500 for the second time (also won in 2005), Wheldon was killed on Oct. 16, 2011 in a massive 15-car crash during the then-IZOD IndyCar season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The English native was just 33 years old.

Wheldon’s car went airborne and he was killed almost instantly when his head struck a pole that supported part of the catchfence on the backstretch of the track. The official cause of death was ruled blunt force trauma. The race was immediately red flagged and never resumed out of respect to Wheldon and his family, although a five-lap tribute occurred later that afternoon.

Sadly, on the morning of his death and before the race, Wheldon had signed a multi-year contract to race for Andretti Autosport beginning in 2012. Wheldon had won both the 2005 Indy 500 and that season’s IndyCar championship in a previous stint with the Andretti organization.

Although it’s been five years since his passing, Wheldon’s memory is still alive. A number of drivers and fans, as well as Wheldon’s sister Holly, took to social media on Sunday to remember him. Here are a few of those posts:

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.