Elsewhere in the NASCAR paddock, Kasey Kahne was even closer to the tragedy than most of his stock car colleagues. He'd been seriously considering taking up IndyCar's $5m prize challenge to race at Las Vegas on Sunday, until his future team boss Rick Hendrick vetoed the plans.
“I was absolutely thinking about doing it,” Kahne said. “Rick told me he didn't want me to do it, so then it was pretty much over at that point in time as far as doing the race.
"You can never think about if something like that would have happened or wouldn't have happened, you have no control over it," he said, refusing to play the 'what if?' game. "So I don't even think about that. Driving an IndyCar is something I've always wanted to do and definitely thought about doing for that race. It just didn't work out."
In NASCAR, Earnhardt Sr. was the last driver to die as the result of a racing accident. His son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., knew Dan Wheldon personally through shared appearances for their mutual sponsor, the US National Guard.
“He was a really great guy, a really nice person and very friendly ... He was just a real pleasure to be around. It's a tough deal," said Earnhardt. "I can't imagine how everybody, his family and everybody in that series is doing."
But Earnhardt, Johnson, Burton and Kahne did what true motor racing drivers always do at moments of extremis: minutes after sharing their thoughts with the press, they were back in their cars and heading out on track for more test laps.
Just like Dan Wheldon would have done.