Friends and colleagues from the world of IndyCar gathered in Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon, for a public memorial service at Conseco Fieldhouse to celebrate the life and successes of Dan Wheldon, who had died in a major racing accident in Las Vegas a week before.

The service started with a moment of silence for another motor racing star, MotoGP's Marco Simoncelli, after the news that he has lost his life earlier that day in a terrible accident in Sepang.

The service also included a memorable salute to Wheldon from his three team mates at Andretti-Green Racing in 2005 when he won the IRL championship - Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and Bryan Herta, who remained his closest friends on and off the track for the rest of his life.

"At first Dan was pretty much the little brother we didn't want," said Franchitti. "And now we'd do anything to have him back. We'll miss you, DW."

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard was one of the first to take to the stage to deliver a eulogy to Wheldon, the driver he described as "a great champion and personal friend to so many of us.

"We have all been devastated by the terrible accident that took Dan Wheldon's life," he said. "Today we mourn Dan's loss but also celebrate his life. We honour him for who he was. This turnout is a wonderful tribute to Dan and a reminder to all of us that a single life - well lived - can make a difference to so many other lives. Certainly that was true of Dan."

Behind him on the stage were some of the trophies and symbols of success that Wheldon had won during his career in US open-wheel racing including the Borg-Warner Trophy for the Indianapolis 500 champion, but Bernard was quick to point out that "the victories and the accolades, they didn't define him. His strong character, his enthusiastic approach to life and the love of family, friends and fans did.

"There was a reason he was a fan favourite. I would see him go out of his way to shake that serviceman's hand, make a young child smile, do that extra interview or joke with a driver. He loved life and it always showed."

Also on stage was the 2012 IndyCar Safety Cell chassis that Wheldon had been helping to test ahead of its roll-out next season, and which incorporates many new safety features that address some of the factors involved in Wheldon's fatal accident in Vegas. For the show, the chassis - which will be named in Wheldon's memory - was bedecked in a red-and-white Lionheart livery.

"The car you see here today is a new car that Dan was testing this year ... It is designed with additional safety features," noted Bernard. "It was not surprising Dan was involved. His commitment to improving and advancing every aspect of our sport was well known.

"Now we must honour his memory by doing the right things. He would want the drivers, the teams and the Series to unite and work together. He would want us to strive to make our sport safer than it already is. So we should pledge to protect and improve racing, the sport he so loved."

There were also touching contributions from Target Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull and Indianapolis Motor Speedway President and CEO Jeff Belskus, as well as Wheldon's longtime business managers and close friends Mickey Ryan and Adrian Sussmann. The service also included a photo slideshow of Wheldon's life in motorsport, from his racing days as a child through to kissing the bricks at Indianapolis with his 2-year-old son Sebastian sat on the race track next to him after Wheldon had won his second Indy 500 in May.

There were musical contributions from Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks and rising country music stars The Band Perry, who performed "Amazing Grace." The Indianapolis Children's Choir and the Gordon Pipers bagpipe group also gave performances during the 90 minute service, and a single bagpiper made his way down the centre aisle and exited, playing the hauntingly fitting "Danny Boy."

Contributors made also sure to inject as many laughs as possible into the services, to match Wheldon's own eternally positive, ever-smiling personality. Panther Racing public relations director Mike Kitchel recalled the ongoing "phone-stealing" prank war in which Wheldon would get hold of one of the PR staff's phones and set them up with spurious meetings by sending text messages to random names in the contact list.

Mickey Ryan dubbed Wheldon the "Imelda Marcos" of racing drivers because of his huge collection of shoes; and Franchitti, Kanaan and Herta later shared an anecdote about how they had FedEx-ed a load of Wheldon's shoes back from Motegi to the US - but only those for the left foot.

Lightening the spirits in the room, Herta dubbed Wheldon "the only guy on the Borg-Warner with two sets of teeth," while Franchitti quipped that "We used to think Dan was high-maintenance, then we got Marco [Andretti] as a teammate."

The memorial service was held before an audience of between two to three thousand fans, all of whom had the opportunity to sign a memorial banner as they arrived. The service was held the day after Wheldon was laid to rest in a funeral service in his adopted home town of St Petersburg in Florida. The Wheldon family did not attend Sunday's memorial service, but instead sent video messages that ensured not a dry eye was to be seen in the audience.

Finally the service was at an end, and Tony Kanaan summed up the mood best.

"Our time together is not over. We have our friends, we have our memories, and one day we'll be together again," he said. "For that reason, I'm not saying goodbye to Dan. Not today. And not ever.

"Goodbye is final, and our friendship won't end. So for now, I'm simply saying I'll see you later. I love you."