Wheldon earned his second "500" victory in dramatic fashion in 2011, taking the lead for the first and only time on the final straightaway of the race. He also won the race in 2005. Wheldon suffered a non-survivable injury in a racing accident in October 2011 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The salute to charismatic fan favorite Wheldon starts Wed., May 16 when the No. 98 William Rast-Curb/Big Machine Dallara/Honda/Firestone car that he drove to the improbable victory last May will be placed on display at the IMS Hall of Fame Museum until Sun., May 20.
That car also will be displayed Sat., May 26 in the Pagoda Plaza during Legends Day Honoring Roger Penske presented by Shell.
A variety of tributes to Wheldon are planned for 96th Indianapolis 500 Race Day, Sunday, May 27.
• All fans entering the track on Race Day will receive a pair of white cardboard sunglasses - white sunglasses were a favorite of the fashionable Wheldon - to wear in tribute to Wheldon on the parade lap, Lap 26 and Lap 98, recognizing the numbers of his winning cars. Fans also are encouraged to wear their own white sunglasses during those laps.
• Bryan Herta, co-owner of the team for which Wheldon drove last year at Indianapolis, will drive Wheldon's winning 2011 car for a lap of honor during pre-race ceremonies shortly before the command to start engines. Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which had a technical alliance last year with Bryan Herta Autosport at Indianapolis, has restored the car.
• Wheldon will be featured on the Race Day technical inspection stickers affixed to all cars in the field.
"Dan embodied the spirit of the Indianapolis 500 and Indianapolis Motor Speedway like few who have ever raced here," said Jeff Belskus, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation president and chief executive officer. "He loved this race and this special place so much, and his fans and everyone associated with 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing' returned that affection with equal passion. We're honored to pay tribute to Dan - an incredible father, husband, friend and driver - through these activities this year. But rest assured, he will be remembered forever at IMS."
Other Race Week tributes include Wheldon's wife, Susie, participating in the Public Drivers Meeting on Saturday, May 26 at IMS and receiving her husband's Champion of Champions ring for his 2011 Indianapolis 500 victory when she arrives in Indianapolis.
Children 12 and under will receive free general admission to any IMS event in 2012 when accompanied by an adult general admission ticket holder.
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer, performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as Indy’s Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC, and follow her on Twitter @GottaGo and Facebook. Gotta Go is published on www.BroadwayWorld.com and in M magazine and the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, New Palestine Reporter, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.