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Dan Wheldon's $2.5 million payday

Meanwhile, Wheldon is now being packed off for a cross-country publicity tour around the US to celebrate his second Indy 500 victory. The first thing he had to do was spend some money on clothing for the multi-city tour and a new suit for the Victory Banquet on Monday evening.

"I didn't think I'd need one," he said.

Despite having won the Indy 500 before back in 2005, Wheldon seems surprised by how different it all is this time around, both personally and in terms of media reception.

"For me, winning the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 is very special," said Wheldon. "This one was definitely more emotional; there was a lot more going on. A lot of things have changed in my life since 2005 ... Because I'm more experienced I'm able to appreciate this more and you have more time to appreciate it."

The fact that he's the winner of the race in its centennial year together with the dramatic nature of the finish means that media attention has been far greater than in 2005, when his victory seemed almost sidelined by the US media who were focussing on the breakthrough performance that year by a new young American driver by the name of Danica Patrick - who that year became the first female driver to lead laps of the Indy 500.

The race was dubbed "the Dan and Danica" show but in truth it was Danica who was the star even if Dan had won the race. That must have irritated them both, and it's been noticeable that the two have engaged in a long-running cold war that at times has broken out into open hostilities with words and worse exchanged in the pit lane over the intervening years.

But in a nice touch, it emerged that once all the hoopla had settled down and the cameras had departed from Indianapolis, Danica paid Dan Wheldon a private visit in his trailer at the Speedway to congratulate him on his victory and to bury the hatchet once and for all.

Other factors have added to Wheldon's victory this time around: he's only the 18th driver to be a multiple winner of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing in 100 years, and the first from England. And no one has ever won the race before by leading only a single lap of the entire afternoon (leading the 200th lap being obviously a prerequisite for victory!)

The fact that this year has seen the small teams convincingly beat the biggest IndyCar players such as Ganassi and Penske at every turn has also added to the "David versus Goliath" storyline for Wheldon's second Indy 500 win. Where Wheldon was a regular season driver in a car from the then-dominant Andretti-Green Racing team, this year he's with a single-car start-up team put together by Bryan Herta and Wheldon himself is without a full-time seat for the rest of the year. The American media loves an underdog story.

Wheldon is also becoming something of a media personality, moving into television punditry with US coverage of IndyCar races which means that at last he's got something of a public profile to make him more newsworthy in post-Indy coverage. If only the same were true in the UK, where despite his historic victory this weekend he has been mentioned only in brief postscripts in blanket coverage of Lewis Hamilton's post-Monaco outburst.

It feels odd to think of Wheldon finishing his victory tour and then heading back to his home in St Petersburg, Florida to play house husband for his wife Susie and their sons, two-year-old Sebastian and new arrival Oliver. The idea that IndyCar now rolls on to the Firestone Twin 275 at Texas Motor Speedway in under two weeks without the Indy 500 champion in attendance seems like a very strange state of affairs. (An appearance at the last-ever IndyCar race to be held at Motegi in September has been mooted, because of Wheldon's long-standing strong associations with the race's title sponsor, Honda.)

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Dan Wheldon celebrates at the 2011 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29. [Picture credit: LAT Photo USA]
Dan Wheldon celebrates with the traditional drink of milk at end of the 2011 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29. [Picture credit: LAT Photo USA]
Dan Wheldon can`t believe he`s just on his second Indy 500. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday May 29, 2011. [Picture credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
Dan Wheldon crosses the finish line to win his second Indy 500. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday May 29, 2011. [Picture credit: LAT Photo USA for IndyCar Media]
Dan Wheldon starts prepping the next generation of Indy 500 winner (2-year-old son Sebastian) in front of his Indy 500 race-winning car and the Borg-Warner Trophy, on the start-finish line of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Monday May 30, 2011. [Picture credit: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media]
Dan Wheldon in his Indy 500 race-winning car, with the winner`s garland and the Borg-Warner Trophy, on the start-finish line of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway marked with its
Scott Dixon - Chip Ganassi Indy Car [credit: IndyCar TV Twitter]
Will Power Texas
Charlie Kimball
Ed Jones feature
Ed Jones feature
Ed Jones
Ed Jones feature
Ed Jones feature
IndyCar, Dallara 2018 chassis, [Credit: IndyCar]
Graham Rahal Detroit celebration
Detroit IndyCar race start
Detroit IndyCar Andretti RHR

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May 31, 2011 7:23 PM

I feel just as bad for JR as I am excited for Wheldon. IndyCar should write JR another check because him crashing on the last lap has put IndyCar on heavy rotation on the sports stations. Indy has gotten WAY more publicity than it normally would have without the last lap crash. Even the NASCAR boys were twitting back and forth about the 500. I wasn't familiar with William Rash jeans before this weekend (probably because I don't buy $200 jeans - I had to google them!lol) but they have gotten their exposure/money's worth with Wheldon this year. They need to come on board like Izod did as a sponsor.

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