Thousands pay tribute to fan favorite

More than 4,000 people celebrated the life of Dan Wheldon at Conseco Fieldhouse Sunday afternoon.

Indianapolis, Ind.

Thousands gathered to honor Dan Wheldon at the Conseco Fieldhouse Sunday afternoon.

There were big musical acts who sang at the memorial service, including Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks and the Band Perry.  The memorial service for Wheldon lasted an hour and a half.

"He was my favorite driver.  I wasn't exactly ready to see him go," said Ashley Graham.
"I feel every single time I met him, a smile came to my face," said Michael Wissler.
"He had a great personality," said Charlie Wissler.

When race fans arrived at Conseco Fieldhouse, in the IU Health Pavilion, fans were able to leave Wheldon's family gifts and messages on banners that will be given to them.

During the memorial service, a number of people spoke in front of the crowd.  Many paid their respects to the two-time Indy 500 champion, including his former teammates Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta and Tony Kanaan.

"Dan understood the racing character and his heart belonged to the sport he loved," said Indianapolis Motor Speedway President and CEO Jeff Belskus.

"It was a privilege for us to witness a young, carefree racer blossom into a true Champion and a devoted family man," said one of Wheldon's managers, Mickey Ryan.

Many people, including Wheldon's friends, family, bosses and fans described how much he meant to them.  "In our own little way we feel as though we know him," said Joe Blinebury.

"He was one of the most well-liked drivers and one of the fan favorites," said race fan Jeff McCarty.  "He would take time to talk to the fans and sign autographs.”

"If we can somehow capture 1/10th of the million of things that made Dan great," said Panther Racing Communications Director Mike Kitchel.  "No matter how much we want to be like Dan and drivers try to emulate Dan, there's only one Dan Wheldon and we love you bro.”

Wheldon was killed Sunday, October 16 in Las Vegas.  He was in a 15-car crash.  Wheldon's funeral was Saturday in St. Petersburg, Florida.

A fund has been set up with Fifth Third Private Bank under: 'The Dan Wheldon Family Trust fund' for Wheldon's family.

A website has been set up for Dan Wheldon where fans can leave condolences at www.danwheldonmemorial.com.

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