We caught up with Dan for a few moments during a quick lull in the action of his test of the 2012 car to ask him a few questions for the INDYCAR Nation faithful:
-Thank you so much for your time, Dan. First, you’ll be starting with over 30+ cars in front of you at Las Vegas, a number that keeps going up. It seems like a pretty steep challenge to get to the front and stay there. Of course, the big fan debate is whether or not you can pull this off; what do you see as the keys to doing so, and where would you put your odds?
DW: For me, it’s just an honor to even be considered for the GoDaddy INDYCAR Challenge. I have to thank Randy Bernard and INDYCAR for giving me this opportunity.
Really, it’s a very exciting challenge, and it brings that competitive aspect I’ve really missed in not running full-time this year. I think something you mentioned—the fact that more and more cars are being added to the grid—continues to add to the challenge, and also says something about the strength of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Yes, I can get to the front, but it won’t be easy. When you go up against the likes of Dario Franchitti, Will Power, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, and so many other tremendous talents in this Series, it’s going to be a fight. No one is going to give you anything. We’ll see how it turns out, but I believe I can do it. I’d definitely like to win that $2.5 million share for a fan—that’s a lot of money, especially in this economy!
-You mentioned not having been in a car much this year. Of course, you’ll be running at Kentucky this weekend as a warm-up for Las Vegas. What sort of things can you take from Kentucky for Las Vegas?
DW: I’m very happy to be back in a competitive race car environment. I’ve been testing the 2012 car, so I’ll really have to get back in the swing of the current car. I’ll be getting comfortable again, and I think any time you can spend more time in a car finding out what works and what doesn’t, it’s a big benefit. I’ve done well at Kentucky over the years, so we’ll look to have some success there, find some speed, and look forward to Las Vegas.
-You’ve been documenting your preparation for Las Vegas with the help of Verizon on INDYCAR Mobile, and I understand you’ve been doing video blogging, or v-blogs. What sort of content have you been producing, and what do you think of that type of format now that you’ve tried it out?
DW: I think that v-blogs are becoming more and more popular. I think it’s great to work with Verizon for the Series and the GoDaddy INDYCAR Challenge, and I’ve really been enjoying the experience. It’s the opportunity to show a different side not only of Dan Wheldon, but of the IZOD IndyCar Series. To be able to show through INDYCAR Mobile some of what goes on behind the scenes is exciting for the fans, and for me as well.
-Before we go, you know we have to ask about this year’s Indy 500. You’re in pretty rarified air with two Indy 500 wins. Your victory comes just after “The Greatest 33” all-time Indy 500 drivers were announced for the 500’s Centennial Celebration. Do you feel as if you’ve done enough to be included on this list?
DW: That’s for other people to judge, I think. All I can do is go out there and do my job, and do my best every time out. Winning the Indy 500 one was amazing, so you can imagine winning two times was just unbelievable. It’s such a difficult race to win twice. One thing I tell people is that winning the Indy 500 changes you, on some level—it makes you so hungry to win again. So after two wins, I’m incredibly hungry to win a third. It’s such a phenomenal place--I‘ve shown I can finish well there, I’ve got a great history there, so I’m definitely looking forward to getting back there to try and win again.