Dan Wheldon

The Real Tragedy of Dan Wheldon’s Death

Dan Wheldon

By Kevin Howell

I’ve been thinking about the death of race car drive Dan Wheldon recently. It was such a horrific scene on that Las Vegas racetrack Sunday, and so sad that someone so young and so talented lost his life. Wheldon was a two-time Indy 500 winner, one of the most famous and prestigious events in all of auto racing. He won the race earlier this year.

Obviously in the aftermath of this tragedy, there is a lot of talk about the safety of the sport, and the conditions of the track that day. And with any loss of life, thoughts go to the family of the victim. In this case, a wife and two young children are left behind. But as I was thinking Sunday about Wheldon’s death, I was a little conflicted within. The fact that a guy died at 33 is quite tragic. But was it tragic how he died? I mean, I thought that no one should die that way. Yes, it’s a dangerous sport, and drivers know the inherent risks involved with it. I can’t fault the activity for Wheldon’s death. And honestly, though his life was indeed cut short, just maybe it wasn’t tragic how he died. Maybe Dan Wheldon died doing what he loved. Maybe he died doing his passion. Is that tragic?

My thoughts were somewhat confirmed the day after the crash when Wheldon’s father, Clive, said: “Daniel was born to be a racer and left us doing what he loved to do.”

Whenever someone dies, we are faced with those soul-searching questions of life. It makes us think of our own mortality, and puts things in perspective. As the late Steve Jobs once said: “Almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

If there’s one lesson we can learn from Dan Wheldon’s death, it’s that the greatest tragedy wasn’t the fatal accident on the track Sunday. It’s that thousands of people watched the news of the accident, thinking they just witnessed a tragedy, but the truth is many of them are living a tragedy every day. The tragedy of not doing what they love, following their hearts, and living a meaningful, passionate life. Dan Wheldon died doing what he loved. It should be a reminder to us to live, doing what we love.


“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.”                                                                                                                              – W.H. Murray

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