INDIANAPOLIS — Susie Wheldon received a long standing ovation Saturday during the public driver meeting for the Indianapolis 500.
Dan Wheldon’s wife accepted the “Baby Borg,” a replica of the Borg-Warner trophy, on behalf of the two-time Indianapolis winner who was killed in a crash during the October season finale race at Las Vegas. Susie Wheldon held her 3-year-old son, Sebastian, while accepting the trophy, and she did not speak during the ceremony.
“Everybody knows how much he loved the Indy 500,” said James Verrier, vice president of Borg-Warner. “His image appears on the trophy for his victories for 2005 as well as last year, and he holds a remarkable record here at the speedway: Six top-four finishes in his last eight starts.”
The 33 drivers in the field were the first to stand, and were followed by fans in the stands for an ovation that lasted more than one minute and included cheers and whistles.
She was also presented with a plaque from The American Dairy Association to commemorate Wheldon’s win last May.
TAKING HEAT: IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard deflected questions about his relationship with team owners.
There's been an undercurrent of negativity since Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened May 9 for preparations for today’s race. Chevrolet team owners have been upset since losing a pair of appeals protesting a component of rival Honda’s turbocharger. The anger spread to other manufacturers when IndyCar last Sunday levied fines throughout the garage that, when all said and done, had reached $300,000 for 19 infractions among 13 teams.
“I’ve been involved now in racing for 28 months, and what I've seen is this unbelievable amount of passion to win, desire to win, not only from drivers but mainly from team owners,” Bernard said. “When a call is not made in their direction, of course they're going to be upset.”
Asked about rumors that team owners have banded together to have Bernard removed, the CEO stayed on message.
“You know, I’m not going to really take away from the Indy 500,” he said. “I think that the Indy 500 is why we’re here. I think, again, the team owners, their passion to win, there was a very upset team owner and still is. But I think it’s very clear that IndyCar is not going to play favorites.”