I wrote a day ago that Dan Wheldon’s fatal crash at Las Vegas was similar to Greg Moore’s fatal crash at California. It’s certainly true that there are physical and situational similarities to the two crashes, but when it comes to how the crashes (and others) affected me, there is quite the difference. For a few days I couldn’t place a finger on why Dan Wheldon’s death affected me differently than the deaths of previous racers have. While contemplating it yesterday evening, it finally hit me.
Wheldon’s death has affected me differently than Senna’s in 1994, Moore’s in 1999, and Earnhardt’s in 2001. In the case of Senna and Earnhardt, the deaths were of racers that I had grown up watching and looked up to as racing heroes. In the case of Moore, I was closer to his age and his death made me question my own mortality. Wheldon’s death hit me much harder than I expected it to.
It’s been 10 years since the death of Earnhardt, the last motor sports death that really hit me hard, but this time it affected me so much differently than before. I realize now that the reason it has affected me so much differently is that I am older. Wheldon was from a generation after me, he was younger than I am. I watched Wheldon develop both as a racer and as a man and I’m going to be honest, I liked what I saw. He developed into a great racer and personality within the sport and as a man changed for the better as he became a husband and father. It seems so much sadder to see someone younger than myself die with so much ahead of him.