IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard's remarks at the public memorial to the late Dan Wheldon, held Sunday at Conseco Field in Indianapolis:
We have all been devastated by the terrible accident that took Dan Wheldon's life. He was a great champion and personal friend to so many of us. We thank everyone who is here to participate in this memorial service. Thank all of you for attending.
Today we mourn Dan's loss but also celebrate his life. We honor him for who he was.
This turnout is a wonderful tribute to Dan and a reminder to all of us that a single life – well lived – can make a difference to so many other lives. Certainly that was true of Dan.
Not far from here – at the Brickyard – Dan Wheldon made his indelible mark in racing. Though he was still a young man, his two Indy 500 championships had already given him a place in the history of our great sport.
But I suppose it will always feel like an incomplete history. Who knows how many more checkered flags or victory laps he would have taken, how many more trophies he would have held over his head?
Yet, as we commemorate his life today, it is not his successes on the track that we celebrate or his unrealized potential that we mourn. Rather it is the person that Dan was that brings us all together.
The victories and the accolades, they didn't define him. His strong character, his enthusiastic approach to life and the love of family, friends and fans did. There was a reason he was a fan favorite. I would see him go out of his way to shake that serviceman's hand, make a young child smile, do that extra interview or joke with a driver. He loved life and it always showed.
To his wife, Susie and his sons, Oliver and Sebastian, we share your grief. Our prayers and thoughts are with you. We offer you the knowledge that Dan was indeed an extraordinary man, one who will be missed by all who knew him personally and many who watched him from afar as a sterling example of the best our sport has to offer.
We at IndyCar, IMS and the Hulman-George family were especially honored that we were able to organize this service today. The outpouring of emotion and desire to reach out to the family has been tremendous. We are humbled to be able to provide the opportunity for race fans and the public to pay their respects and offer support.
There is a great community surrounding racing and I know its commitment to Dan's family will be there for many, many years to come.
There are risks in racing and Dan knew them. He was committed, like all the best drivers in the world, to pushing the boundaries of human performance, endurance and concentration. Those are goals as noble and ancient as mankind itself. He passionately loved racing and the challenges it offered. His spirit, his energy and skills were perfect for IndyCar, and we were proud that he devoted his career to competing in this great sport.
The car you see here today is a new car that Dan was testing this year. It has many cutting-edge enhancements that promise to move the sport of racing and automotive engineering forward, and yes, it is designed with additional safety features.
It was not surprising Dan was involved. His commitment to improving and advancing every aspect of our sport was well known. The innovations that emerge from those efforts can have repercussions not just on racetracks but on our highways and in our passenger cars. Just another measure of the impact that Dan had on our lives and IndyCar.
Today we will hear about Dan and what he meant to so many. In any field, especially one as competitive as racing, earning the respect and admiration of one's peers is a tremendous accomplishment.
And now we must honor his memory by doing the right things. He would want the drivers, the teams and the Series to unite and work together. He would want us to strive to make our sport safer than it already is. So we should pledge to protect and improve racing, the sport he so loved.
So we are here today to say goodbye to Dan Wheldon. There is no doubt he was a great driver. Yet, with an even greater certainty, we can say he was a great man, as measured by the impact he had on all of us.
I would like to close with a special thought I once read. Perhaps they are not really stars in the sky. Perhaps they're openings in the heavens where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy. That is how I want to remember Dan – always happy, always smiling and always shining down upon us.