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Drivers, officials comment on the passing of Dan Wheldon

IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, of England, drinks from

IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, of England, drinks from a bottle of milk after winning the Indianapolis 500. (May 29, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

 Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon died Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after a 15-car pileup in lap 11 of the IndyCar season finale. Wheldon, 33, was a two-time Indy 500 winner.

Upon learning of Wheldon's passing. officials decided to call the race. The drivers did a five-lap tribute to Wheldon on the track.

"IndyCar is sad to announce that Dan Wheldon passed away from unsurvivable injuries," said IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Dan and his family. IndyCar, its drivers and teams have decided to end the race. We will run a five-lap salute in honor of Dan."

Here are more statements regarding the passing of Wheldon.

The Indianapolos Motor Speedway: "We are incredibly saddened at the passing of Dan Wheldon. He was a great champion of the Indianapolis 500 and a wonderful ambassador for the race, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and all of motorsports. Most importantly, he was a fantastic husband, father and man - a good friend to so many in this sport. His memory will live forever at the Speedway, both through the magnitude of his accomplishments on the track and his magnetism off the track. Our deepest sympathies are extended to his entire family, team and fans."

Danica Patrick, via Twitter: "There are no words for today. Myself and so many others are devastated. I pray for Suzi and the kids that god will give them strength."

Dario Franchitti, via Twitter: Rest in peace Danny boy, we'll miss you my friend. Everyone please keep the wheldon family in you thoughts and prayers.

Ryan Briscoe, via Twitter: "The 5 lap parade was a nice touch and very emotional from inside the race car. Looked like world war 3 hit turn 2 as well." and "I don't have words for the tragic loss of Dan today. He was a good man and will be missed by all of us. #RIPDanWheldon"

Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Driver, No. 10 Target Honda: “We lost a good friend.  Everybody in IndyCar Series considered Dan a friend. He was one of those special, special people from the first moment he showed up in IndyCar. And he was kind of brash, but he was a charmer. Then he became this loving family guy who was still charming, but he had this whole new side to him. I'm just thinking of Susie and the boys. When I think about them I'm struggling to hold it together.”

Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Driver, No. 9 Target Honda: "Dan is family and I will miss him badly. Such an amazing person and wonderful family man. We will be with Susie, Sebastian and Oliver for whatever they need. I still can't believe it."

Graham Rahal, Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing Driver, No. 38 Service Central Honda: "My heart goes out to the Wheldon family. Dan was an incredible champion, a great friend and someone I will always respect and admire. We have truly lost one of the greatest members of our INDYCAR family."

Oriol Servia, No. 2 Telemundo Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “This is incredibly sad. We all know this is part of the sport.  Cars are getting safer, tracks are getting safer so fortunately it hasn’t happened in a long time.  We all had a bad feeling about this place in particular just because of the high banking and how easy it was to go flat and if you give us the opportunity, we are drivers and we try to go to the front -- we race each other hard because that’s what we do.  We knew if could happen but it’s just really sad.  There was no right or wrong thing to do really on how to proceed.  It’s the first time ever that we knew that a driver was gone so I think the series did the right thing.  Even if you were going to be more careful we were still going to be traveling at a very high speed and in a risky situation.  I think Randy’s call was rational.  He was saying ‘Listen, you guys are not thinking straight.’ If they had kept us in the car and we still had hope that Dan was going to be okay and they restarted the race sooner you can just focus on what you do.  This wasn’t the right way either to finish the race or the season; it feels wrong but there was no right way to deal with the situation.  I feel so bad for Susie and their kids.  It’s so tough to understand when somebody is gone that quickly.  Dan was always a very happy guy; he was always smiling.  He was a funny, great person that touched a lot of people.  He will be missed.”

Charlie Kimball, Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Driver, No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen Honda: "We lost a special member of our IndyCar family. Dan was doing exactly what he wanted and died doing what he loved. Our thoughts are with his wife, Susie, and his two children. There are much bigger plans in life than we can ever hope to understand. Dan will be forever missed."

Andretti Autosport: "It is with extreme sorrow that we have lost one of our champion drivers today. Dan was an Indy 500 champion and IndyCar Series champion with Andretti Autosport-and one of our closest competitors. Dan brought such enthusiasm and passion to the sport not often seen in motorsports. We will remember Dan's tremendous racing accomplishments with our team as well his infectious personality. We would like to express our deepest sympathy to Dan's family, racing team and friends today. Dan is one of IndyCar's greatest champions."

James Hinchcliffe, No. 06 Sprott Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “It’s a black day for the sport.  We came in here hoping for a good season-finale and ended up losing a very close friend and a vhery good racing driver.  I think Dan was coming into his second wind as a driver.  He had so much success early on and he was getting back into that.  It’s going to be hard next year to climb into the new cars every time knowing that if it wasn’t for Dan this thing wouldn’t be what it was.  He made such an impact on this sport and will even continue to now.  It’s proof that this is still a very dangerous sport.  As hard as we work on the safety side, these things are still very possible.  It’s tough to put into words what everybody is feeling.  There was no right answer on how to deal with this situation in terms of the rest of the race.  Deep down we all think Dan would have wanted us to race but out of respect for him we made a decision, right or wrong.  We’re going to have to regroup over the winter and head into the first race next year and race the whole year for Dan because all I said, the new car that we all are going to be blessed with the opportunity to race, a lot of that is as good as it is because of Dan.  My thoughts are with Susie and the kids.”

George Bodenheimer, president, ESPN & ABC Sports: "We are very saddened by the tragic passing of Dan Wheldon. He was a great champion both on and off the racetrack and he will be greatly missed. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family.”

Chip Ganassi: "What can you say? He was such a big presence in our sport and quite a talent.  Today we lost a little bit of Indycar.  He raced here for us for three years, won six races and made many friends – the whole Chip Ganassi Racing organization mourns his passing.  My thoughts and prayers go out to Susie, the boys and the whole Wheldon family."

Gregg Steinhafel, Chariman, President and CEO, Target: "We are deeply saddened by the tragic and sudden death of Dan Wheldon, who drove for Target Chip Ganassi Racing from 2006 to 2008.  He was a special part of the Target family and our heartfelt sympathies go out to Dan’s family and friends."

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