|Daniel Clive Wheldon|
Dan Wheldon in Washington, D.C. in February 2010.
|Born||22 June 1978 |
Emberton, Olney, England, United Kingdom
|Died||16 October 2011 (aged 33) |
Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
|2011 IRL IndyCar Series|
|Current team||Bryan Herta Autosport|
|Former teams||Chip Ganassi Racing |
Andretti Green Racing
|Best finish||1st in 2005|
|Indy Lights |
Toyota Atlantic Championship
U.S. F2000 Championship Series
|2005||IRL IndyCar Series Champion|
|IRL IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year|
Indianapolis 500 Winner
Indianapolis 500 Winner
The Indianapolis 500 by alter ego radarum
So you move into a new subdivision in a new city and you see flags flying with the initials CD flying in front of a few homes and you wonder what that means. You see a big sign with an Indy race car numbered 666 and the name Darwin on a big sign near the city hall. There are a lot of vehicles with bumper stickers that have CD or 666 on them. It all seems pretty strange to you. You drive around your neighborhood and see a massive mansion at the end of a cul-de-sac with DARWIN in big letters emblazoned on a huge garage that connects to the house. It looks like the kind of place a Hollywood star who was also an automobile enthusiast might own...or maybe Al Gore? The address is 666 Darwin Place.
After you connect with the moving van and the movers begin putting your stuff into your new house, your next-door neighbors come over with a plate of cookies and greetings. Naturally you ask them, "What's up with all the Darwin and CD and 666 stuff?"
They look at you dumbfounded at the question, as if you were completely clueless. The husband says, "Charles Darwin won the Indianapolis 500 and we are all proud of him, he lives in that big house down the street!"
You are shocked. You don't pay much attention to Indy Car racing but the 500 is a big event and you were darned sure that some guy named Wheldon had won it for the second time. I mean, it was back in May but still...so you suggest that Dan Wheldon had won and the neighbors laugh at you.
"Are you kidding? Chuck has the trophy in his front room! He has an oil painting in his library of his car crossing the finish line in first place!" He offers to show you a clipping from the local newspaper announcing Darwin's victory. You shake your head and switch to small talk and then, when the couple has left, look at your wife and raise your eyebrows. But then a mover begins to put the big screen TV
in the living room and you want it in the family room and you forget about the whole thing.
But after a couple of days of greeting new neighbors and getting the new household sorted out (which kid gets the corner bedroom upstairs and where the heck did the box with the Christmas lights go?) you begin to think about all the Darwin stuff. You are computer savvy so you go to the internet to see who won the 2011 Indianapolis 500 and there are plenty of articles about the winning 666 car. Then you search "Wheldon Indianapolis" and you find some cached articles that claim Dan Wheldon won, but if you try to click on them most of those sites have disappeared or the article has been changed. Are you in the Twilight Zone? This begins to annoy you. The new internet access company seems to have all sorts of information about this Darwin guy you NEVER saw before and all sorts of things you read online about the CD car that were never there before dominate any searches of Indianapolis results. In fact, you soon find out that this Darwin guy is supposed to have won the last few races all in a row!!!! How did this get past you?
You settle into the new job and the new house and you realize that there are lots of drawings and paintings and other representations of this 666 car taking the checkered flag but no pictures. You calmly ask people now and then to find out if any of them had actually gone to the race and seen Darwin win? Nope, they just read it in the papers or heard it on the radio or on the internet. How about seeing any of those wins on television? Nope, the Indy Car races are not televised locally. Your inner Sherlock Holmes is prodding you to get answers. What kind of actual proof did anyone have of these wins by this 666 car? "Everybody knows he won." All the answers you get are like that.
Therefore you hop in the car and drive down to the end of the road and park in the driveway of the Darwin mansion. You get out and ring the doorbell and a butler answers. You ask to speak to Mr. Darwin. You are told to make an appointment with his secretary and you are given a number...that always goes to answering machine. You send a letter to the residence. No reply. It is beginning to drive you nuts! Why is this Darwin guy so slippery and does he even exist? Is the entire world mad? Everybody in the city including your boss and co-workers all say that Charles Darwin is an ace Indy driver and how could you not know this?
You call your parents back home. After you've said the normal things you ask them if they ever heard of Charles Darwin the race car driver. Nope. Did they know who won the Indy 500 earlier in the year? Your father thinks on it and says "I know he won it for the second time...like a Dan Wheldon or something like that. Not sure how he spells it but that's him."
Had he heard of Charles Darwin? Your father says, "Nope! Who is he?"
You know that something very whacky is going on. You also know that you are not happy with the uncertainty and confusion. Somehow you will figure out what is going on.
It is a cold evening as the sun goes down and all the houses in the community have their furnaces turned on, keeping the heat going. You are desperate. You are mechanically savvy enough to figure out how to shut off the power to the Darwin mansion but then you hear a motor start up and the lights that had flickered on the outside come back on. You hear the noise coming from the garage. He must have a power backup!!! So you walk around to to a window on the side of the huge garage and peer in and see, in a corner, a dim light and a big generator which is probably powering the house. But then you notice there are no cars in the garage at all. Just a long expanse of empty concrete floor and a few work benches and assorted tools hung on the wall. Where were the cars?
Back home you race! You grab a flashlight and put on your most generic-looking work shirt and khaki pants. You dig up your old Army combat boots and stuff your feet into them. You find an old ID badge from a conference you attended in Ohio the year before and stick it over your pocket. You snag a small toolbox and a cell phone and a clipboard. Then you put on a jacket that covers most of your ID badge and head back to the Darwin mansion. You knock on the door. The Butler answers.
"I am here to investigate your power outage, sir, may I come in and check your circuit box?"
The butler gives you access to the foyer and announces down the hall towards an unseen hearer
He instructs you to wait and down a long hall strides a middle-aged man with a beard. As he approaches you ask, "Are you THE Charles Darwin?"
He smiles, "Yes, of course...now what about.."
But you interrupt. "My neighbors told me you had a trophy in one of your rooms and a very nice oil painting of you winning the Indy 500 and I wondered if I could just see them before I get your power sorted out...I mean, since you seem to have a generator backup running?"
"Ah, a fan, of course! Follow me and I will show you." He takes you to look at a big trophy that looks real enough (but enclosed in a transparent case) and then leads you to his library where there are multiple paintings of a car number 666 on race tracks and one big one of the car crossing a finish line with a big checkered flag being waved by an official in the stands above the track.
"Wow," you say, "Can I see the actual car?"
Charles Darwin shakes his head. "I prefer portraits. Far more artistic and attractive than ordinary photography. I do have a nice lithograph of that big portrait I can autograph for you..." He reaches for a stack of reproductions of the portrait on heavy stock paper and signs it with a flourish. "Would you like me to personalize this? What is your name?"
"Dawkins?" You ask.
"Dawkins is my butler. Loyal as can be but has the common sense of a toadstool. He should have led you to the box right away." Darwin grimaces as if in pain as he leads you through a hallway and a huge collection of stainless steel cabinets and marble counters that you realize is a giant kitchen. Beyond the kitchen is the door to the garage. "I cannot imagine what has gone on, do you mind if I watch you work?" Darwin asks you.
"No problem. I eyeballed the outside connection and I just want to be sure no obvious problems are going on in your main circuit boxes." You open the main circuit box and make a show of touching each circuit breaker switch to make sure they are not flipped to off. You scrutinize the wiring going in and out and then make a trek over to the power generator to observe it. "So, Mr. Darwin, why aren't there any cars in here?"
He smiles, "Didn't I tell you that the cars are kept at headquarters downtown?"
His smile disappears. "Dawkins has a vehicle of some kind in the back of the house, he goes out at times and retrieves things for me. I have my groceries delivered and my cook handles all that. Really, I don't have any reason to go anywhere."
You say, "But I never heard of a race car driver who doesn't like to drive. You don't drive at all?"
He turns and looks closer at the badge sticking out from underneath your jacket. "Show me your identification!"
You pull out your wallet and show him your drivers license.
"Chris Christian!" Darwin's countenance changes and his complexion reddens. "You! You are that man from out of town who has been going around asking questions and claiming I did not win the 500! Get out of here this minute before I call the police!"
You look him in the eye. "Let's see YOUR drivers license. Do you even have one? Can you even DRIVE? You didn't win the Indianapolis 500. I know who won it and it wasn't YOU. You are a complete fraud!"
Enraged, Darwin walks over to a switch on the back wall and flicks it to ON. An alarm begins to sound. Beep beep beep beep beep beep.."
You are disoriented. Should you run away or stay?
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!!!!!!!!
Ugh! The alarm is beeping and it is time to get up. You realize you just had a vivid dream and remember what you can of it so you can tell your wife about it. At least this time you weren't back in the military!
Again, the post above was written before I the crash that took Dan Wheldon's life even happened. I could have made some changes to the post, but instead I made a preface and am also making a postscript. All I can think is that hopefully everyone who reads this will remember his family at a time when their grieving and pain would be dominating their lives and rending their hearts.