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Wheldon memories weigh on Danica at Vegas

It was an unusually preoccupied and contemplative Danica Patrick facing the press at Las Vegas, as she admitted that memories of Dan Wheldon were impossible to ignore.
It's nearly five months ago that Danica Patrick was last at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but it's not an occasion that she is ever likely to forget in a hurry - and nor will anyone else.

On October 16, Patrick was competing in what was meant to be her final IZOD IndyCar Series race here, when suddenly all hell broke loose and 15 cars were swept up into a devastating accident. Worst of all, the wreck claimed the life of the 2011 Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon.

"There won't be a time that I come to Las Vegas and won't think about Dan and think about the family and hope that they are doing well," said Patrick at a press conference ahead of this weekend's Sam's Town 300 Nationwide Series race on Saturday evening.

"Obviously, the last time I was here was a sad weekend. My thoughts are still with Susie and the kids, and I hope they're doing well," she added. "I think time is a healer, for sure. But there won't be a time I come here that I won't think of it."

Asked whether the memories of that dreadful race affected her performance in the car, Patrick explained that there was a different mindset for a driver when they were behind the wheel.

"As race car drivers, our job is to drive the cars to the edge," she said. "Our job is to drive the race car and we need to be able to do that with our whole heart and mind, so I went out there and drove just like any other day. It's your single focus.

"But it's the moments outside of the car when you remember so much. I don't think it ever completely escapes you," she went on. "All of the things I did that week of the race, whether it was driving up and down The Strip in our race cars or going to certain restaurants or being at the track and seeing certain things around us, it will never completely escape. And that's what tragedy will do to you."

It's not just Patrick with the events of last October very much on her mind in the NASCAR paddock this weekend. "I thought about it when I drove through the tunnel [into the infield] last night," admitted Greg Biffle.

"It's definitely a tough thing to overcome and I've been through it before with other friends that I've lost in motorsports," contributed five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. "You try to push it out of your mind. You try not to think about it ... Some of us were close with Dan and it tugs on us emotionally."




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