Danica Patrick revealed the idea of a 5-Lap Tribute Salute to Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway came from IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard.
Speaking during the Friday Press Conference at Texas Motor Speedway, Patrick gave details on what went on during the drivers meeting prior to the official announcement of Wheldon’s passing.
'We came into the drivers meeting room after we had been told that Dan had passed away, and it was a discussion about, "what do we do? Do we go out there?"' Patrick recounted. 'There were all kinds of conversations about how to race and 2 to 3 wide and trying to restrict things. It was just a very complicated conversation.'
'But Randy did come in and said "Look, you guys can’t think straight right now. I’m going to make this decision. You’re going to go out and you’re going to do a 5-lap tribute, and we’re not going to run today." That was good because after a day like that, it’s probably true we couldn’t think straight. The 5 Lap Tribute was nice to do. It was emotional, but it was nice to do.'
Patrick is competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this weekend driving in the #7 GoDaddy / Dan Wheldon Memorial Car. She was especially proud of the special paint scheme, which featured Wheldon’s signature ‘Lionheart’ Decal emblazoned across the hood of the Chevrolet powered machine.
'It feels comforting in a way, to be honest,' Patrick said. 'When they popped the hood open and they work on the car, to see "Lionheart" while I’m sitting in my car waiting for changes, it’s a cool thing. It’s a privilege.'
Patrick will donate her prize money from this weekend to the Dan Wheldon Memorial Foundation. She will also auction off her specially designed Wheldon memorial helmet to the charity auction spearheaded by IndyCar driver Graham Rahal. 'My hope is that we can do everything possible to come together to honour Dan, and to support Susie (Wheldon) and the kids.'
Patrick also said the three week break between the IndyCar finale in Las Vegas and the NASCAR race this weekend made it easier to cope with getting behind the wheel of a race car again.
'It was really nice to just have a couple of weeks off and create some space between that weekend and those emotions, and getting back out on the race track again.'
'It’s a tragedy, and it’s terrible, but hopefully everyone can learn and be safer from it. I have dealt with something like this before, and it’s never easy.'