Wheldon enjoying magic run

first_imgFONTANA – Dan Wheldon arrives in town today for Sunday’s Toyota Indy 400 with the knowledge he already has posted the greatest season in Indy Racing League history. His 2005 achievements are outstanding: He was fourth in his first IRL race at Fontana in 2003 and was third a year ago. And he likes the two-mile superspeedway. “I love the place, I really do. I think it’s a great track,” Wheldon said. “The thing to me that makes California so good is it’s very, very fast. It’s one of the fastest racetracks that we go to. That’s what it seems to me that the people that come to watch a race love to see. They love to see fast cars running close together. You get that. “But from a pure driver’s perspective, you can run close, but if your car is a little bit off, you can actually break away from that car. It’s one that does reward a very fast race car, but it’s also got to be good handling.” While Wheldon won’t be worried about points, his Andretti Green Racing teammates most definitely will be. Tony Kanaan, the 2004 champion, is battling Marlboro Team Penke driver Sam Hornish Jr. for second, while AGR’s Dario Franchitti is vying with Helio Castroneves and Scott Sharp for fourth. According to Wheldon, those races-within-the-race will make for an entertaining day. “I think everybody’s going to be going for broke,” said Wheldon, who admitted to his agents listening to offers from teams in other disciplines. “It’s the kind of track that encourages that to happen because it’s so wide and so big that it can allow for very, very close racing. We don’t really get disturbed by dirty air too much around that. Indianapolis 500 winnerIndyCarSeries championA record six victories, which has vaulted him to second on the all-time IndyCar win list If he were in his native England, he would be wearing a crown. Actually, he’ll get one Sunday night after the race with the official ceremony. And, with a finish of 11th or better in the season-finale, Wheldon will score more points in one season than any other driver in the eight-year history of the open-wheel series. That’s almost a given considering his track record at Fontana. center_img “It’s going to be really, really tight. I think you’re going to see a lot of people driving very, very aggressively.” That’s the way he opened the IRL season, winning four of the first five races. Soon thereafter, the rest of the series caught up. “I think you got to remember we definitely started out the season very, very strong, there’s no doubt about it. There’s the eventuality that you’re going to stop winning,” he said. “You’d be undermining and somewhat disrespecting how good the competition is in the series. “I would certainly say having a midseason slump would not be the case because I think we were still strong, we were still competing for wins. We perhaps had a little conservative strategy. I would put that one down to the competition level of the series, people just being out-and-out quicker than us.” However, the win at Indy was enough to fuel the season, and maybe a career. “Every Indy 500 is remembered for different things. Every year a driver wins that is hugely talented, in my opinion,” Wheldon said, speaking of the past. “There’s always somebody good that wins that race. I can’t think of anybody that’s kind of lucked into it. There’s always been somebody that’s been very, very talented. That’s what makes the race so special. “The Indianapolis 500 to me is unbelievable. It certainly raised my profile in England. Just for me having achieved that win is special.” Even though Danica Patrick, the rookie who became the first woman to lead the famous race, might have stole some of his thunder. “I think it’s made me more publicized by the fact I’ve not been publicized, if you can have that,” he said. “It really doesn’t affect me. I mean, the biggest thing for me, having won the Indianapolis 500, was the self-satisfaction. I’ve said it a million times, but it really is, that race is such a big deal to me that that stuff really doesn’t matter. It was just in the beginning of the whole Danica-mania thing. That’s going to happen. “I would just like to be remembered for being a highly talented race car driver. I keep trying every race to improve to make myself better. If when I retire I can be remembered as a bad-ass race car driver that won a lot, that’s all that matters to me.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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