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Dan Wheldon back on track for Kentucky

Dan Wheldon will return to the cockpit for the Kentucky Indy 300 next weekend, as a warm-up for his attempt to win $5m in the season finale at Las Vegas two weeks later.
Dan Wheldon hasn't been in an IndyCar race since he dramatically won the Indianapolis 500 in May on the last corner, and it looked as though his next outing would be in mid-October at Las Vegas when he attempt to win from the back of the grid and claim a special $5m prize.

But now it's confirmed that he will be back sooner than expected, with a race seat confirmed at Sam Schmidt Motorsports for the Kentucky Indy 300 on October 2. He'll be taking over the #77 Bowers & Wilkins at Magnolia entry normally helmed by Alex Tagliani, who put the very same car on pole position for the start of the Indy 500 that Wheldon went on to win.

"I can't thank Alex enough for letting me drive his car in Kentucky and to work with the team in preparation for Las Vegas," said Wheldon at the announcement. "I'll be stepping into a fast race car that's capable of winning. As a driver, that's all you can ask for.

"I'm really excited about this opportunity and look forward to working with everyone at Sam's team," he added. "They were a large part of our winning effort in May, and I'll do my best to get back to Victory Lane."

Team owner San Schmidt added that he also appreciated Tagliani stepping aide for Kentucky. "Being a race car driver myself, it would be extremely difficult to step out of a car I helped develop, but Alex is a true professional and team player in our pursuit to win this prize."

"I'm obviously not happy about sitting out Kentucky, but this is a very exciting opportunity," said Tagliani, who stressed that it had been his choice to hand the car over to Wheldon for Kentucky. "Dan and I are good friends, and I'm very jealous that he gets to run for the $5 million. But I fully support what IndyCar has done to generate fan interest and will do everything I can to help the Sam Schmidt Motorsport team run Dan in Kentucky and prepare for the Go Daddy Challenge."

Tagliani himself will be back in the #77 for Vegas, while Wheldon switches to a car jointly entered by Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Bryan Herta Autosport.

"I'm out to win the Vegas race, as well, and won't back off one bit," warned Tagliani. "So Dan will be on his own when the green flag drops!"

While there's no special prize to spur Wheldon on at Kentucky, it's a different story at Las Vegas where he'll have to start from the back of the grid but if he managed to win he'll pocket $5m, which will be split between Wheldon and a fan selected from a sweepstake.

Although Wheldon hasn't been racing since May, he has been getting a lot of track time as the official test driver of the new Dallara IndyCar Safety Cell chassis, which will be used by all teams from the start of next season.



Related Pictures

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Dan Wheldon poses with the new 2012 Dalara IndyCar Safety Cell/chassis ahead of its maiden on-track shakedown at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. August 2011. [Photo credit: Michael Levitt LAT for IndyCar Media]
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Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates after the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates after the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates after the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Eric Anderson for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, and his team perform the traditional kissing of the bricks after racing to victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, drinks the traditional bottle of milk while celebrating his victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, celebrates his victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, crosses the finish line as he races to victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Will Power (left), driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, finishes second. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Andy Frame/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya is congratulated by his Penske team mate Helio Castroneves after clinching victory in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates victory in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates victory in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)

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