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Mourners say farewell to Dan Wheldon

Family and friends have paid a tearful farewell to Dan Wheldon at a funeral service in his adopted American home town of St Petersburg in Florida on Saturday.
Hundreds of mourners arrived to pay their respects to Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon at a funeral service at the First Presbyterian Church of St. Petersburg, the Florida city that he had made his home in the US with his wife Susie and their two children, 2-year-old Sebastian and 7-month-old Oliver.

Wheldon's father Clive carried Dan's familiar racing helmet, as IndyCar drivers Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan acted as pallbearers for the coffin along with Wheldon's three brothers Austen, Elliott and Ashley.

A letter written by Susie Wheldon and read out on her behalf during the service said that "I keep thinking this is a bad dream ... My heart is scattered in a million pieces."

Another letter, written by Dan's sister Holly and read out at the service by Scott Dixon, spoke of Wheldon's love and passion for racing: "My brother was born to race ... Dan without racing is like a cup of tea without milk, and Dan loved tea."

Susie Wheldon's own letter offered a similar anecdote from their first meeting at a PR shoot in 2003, when she had asked him what his back-up career plan was if motor racing didn't work out for him: "I don't have one," Wheldon had replied.

Team owners Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske were among the mourners, along with many of the drivers that Wheldon had competed against over the years in IndyCar.

"The past week's been a tough one," admitted Graham Rahal. "It really puts it all in perspective."

"It's almost indescribable," said Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had just learned that he was to be Wheldon's team mate at Andretti Autosport in 2012 in a deal just agreed before the fateful Vegas weekend. "This is something that I never really experienced in my life."

Two drivers who went to hospital after the 15-car wreck at Vegas were also present, with Will Power clearly suffering from the after effects of a painful back sustained after flying through the air in a manner terrifyingly close to that which claimed Wheldon's life. Pippa Mann also attended the service, with her right arm bandaged after having surgery for burns.

Wheldon's best man from his marriage to Susie in 2008, Adrian Sussmann, spoke about Wheldon's pursuit of perfection in everything he did, which culminated in his second Indy 500 victory with a scratch team put together by Wheldon's former team mate Bryan Herta, which had achieved the impossible feat of beating the series 'big boys'.

Related Pictures

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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
Dan Wheldon and his family, the day after winning the 2011 Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, 2011. [Picture credit; Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media]
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Graham Rahal Detroit
Detroit IndyCar Helio Castroneves
Scott Dixon Indy 500
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Scott Dixon [credit: IndyCar Series]
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