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Dan Wheldon's death touches IndyCar community and beyond

October 17, 2011 |  8:18 am

Dan Wheldon dies in a 15-car wreck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Many of those who worked with or raced against Dan Wheldon had plenty to say about the loss of the 33-year-old IndyCar driver after his death in a 15-car wreck early in the series' season-ending race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

"Such a sad day … to lose a champion like Dan Wheldon … my thoughts and prayers are with [his wife] Susie and his kids." -- driver Will Power, whose car also went airborne during the crash.

"I just feel for his family. He'll be missed." -- driver Danica Patrick, who spoke through tears on national television.

"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." -- Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. President and CEO Jeff Belskus.

"Dan Wheldon was a dear friend and an incredible race driver. His family and friends were with him at the track today, and he was surrounded by love. He was doing what all true racers love best. There is a massive hole in my heart, but I am blessed to have shared in his life, his family and friends and his mighty racing accomplishments." -- Scott Borchetta, president and CEO of the Big Machine Label Group, sponsor of Dan Wheldon's car.

"A little bit of everybody in IndyCar racing died today." -- Chip Ganassi, owner of Wheldon's former team, Chip Ganassi Racing.

Wheldon's death touched more than just those involved in IndyCar. The tributes from celebrities and other fans continue to pour in through Twitter:

"Prayers goes out to his whole family! I don't know him personally but he was well respected in his sport. We are all one GIANT family." -- Miami Heat forward LeBron James

"Spent a little time with Dan Wheldon several years ago in Paris for Race of Champions. Great guy, great driver. Will certainly b missed." -- NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon

"#RIP Dan Wheldon ... never wanna see anything like this! Sad day. God Bless bro." -- Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino.

(When a follower responded, "You're awesome for reachin out to the race world. Don't see that much," Victorino replied, "Wish I didn't have to in this circumstances and would have love to done it another way.")

"R.I.P. Dan Wheldon ... He always seemed to be more than just a winner." -- Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx

"I got to meet and talk to Dan once, a lovely and cool guy. A terrible tragedy ..." Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan

Others sending out their thoughts and prayers included Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda, broadcaster Dick Vitale, Guns n' Roses guitarist Slash, actress Alyssa Milano, "Jersey Shore" star DJ Pauly D and NFL greats Barry Sanders and Kurt Warner.


Photos: Fiery auto crash in Las Vegas

Video: Dan Wheldon killed in IndyCar crash

Bill Dwyre: Dan Wheldon was an engaging young champion

Graphic: Comparing tracks at Las Vegas and Indianapolis Motor Speedways

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Dan Wheldon celebrates while pouring the traditional milk on his head after winning the Indianapolis 500 in May. Credit: John Sommers II / Reuters