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Dan Wheldon would have been 35 today

Jun 22, 2013, 7:06 PM EDT

Throughout the life of two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon, he gave the IZOD IndyCar Series and its fans many things – chief among them being an exciting style of driving in the cockpit and a charismatic yet kind-hearted personality out of it.

But as today marks what would have been his 35th birthday, one can’t help but think of another gift he helped give to the sport. The Dallara DW12, which earned its name after Wheldon’s tragic death in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, has served as a phenomenal boost to the series. Wheldon and Bryan Herta Autosport developed the car early on, helping to identify key weaknesses that IndyCar and Dallara would work on leading up to its official debut in the 2012 campaign.

Sadly, Wheldon would not be able to completely see the project through. But through his and BHA’s efforts, the DW12 would eventually become track-worthy. And there can be no argument that it has provided some of the best racing on the planet over the last year and a half. IndyCar’s on-track product has been stellar, which should give its fans hope even as the series continues its current battle to reclaim the public presence it once had.

Indeed, while we wish Dan Wheldon was still here, his presence is still felt in a very positive manner.

Happy Birthday, Lionheart. From all of us.

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