I don’t know why this hit me now, but I just have to get it off my chest.

I left the 2011 Indianapolis 500 early. Marco Andretti was in the top 10, the rookie J.R. Hildebrand was set to win the race: I thought (idiotically) that I had no real reason to stick around and wanted to get a jump on everyone leaving the bleachers. So I descended the stands with my grandparents and made my way towards the residential area where we had parked our car.

I was crossing the wooden bridge when a man ran past, clearly having just fled the track and yelling about how he couldn’t believe it.

“Who won?” I called after him.

“Hildebrand crashed!” he yelled back joyfully, over his shoulder. “Dan Wheldon won!”

I couldn’t fathomed that I’d missed it. While I more closely followed the then Andretti Green Team, I still at least recognized the name Dan Wheldon and the face it belonged to. But hell, I’ll be honest, all I knew about Dan was that he was a super likable guy, a mature racer, and the only other guy in the field that (in my opinion) had looks to rival my love Marco’s.

I didn’t feel bad about leaving early at that time. I had beaten the crowd and could walk easily back to my family’s car, still while hearing the roar of the crowd still at the speedway. There was no need to stay, I thought. There’s always next year, and I’m sure Dan will win again. Jesus, he’s a likable, handsome, young guy. Good on him for winning this one.

I was a fool, though, and I was blind.

Fast forward to the afternoon of the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I had it set to record and was planning to watch it later, at the time I was preoccupied with work around the house. But when I logged on to Yahoo that afternoon and saw the news that Dan Wheldon had died, I was confused.

I ran downstairs to my father.

“Yahoo News said that Dan Wheldon is dead.” I told him.

My mom, hearing this, came into the living room as my dad flipped the TV to the news…and my worst fear was confirmed.

The replays were awful. I had never seen something so terrible in all my life, and I didn’t stop crying all evening and into the next day.

Something inside me broke when Dan died. I cried for him and all his love and beauty. I cried for the beautiful wife and sweet children he’d left behind. I cried when I saw Dario Franchitti weeping openly on live TV. I cried when I learned that Dan had only that morning decided to race for Andretti Green. But when the TV showed Marco pacing his pit box, struggling to hold back tears from those eyes he had inherited from his grandfather, I curled into a fetal position and soaked the floor with tears that I wept in place of his.

But most of all I cried because I had left. I had left before I could see Dan win what would be his last 500. Often I ponder how I would be different if I had stayed. Would I have been a Dan Wheldon fan from that time on? Would I root for him just as much as I did the Andrettis?

I’ll never know, and leaving that God forsaken race early will always, always haunt me. To put it simply, I will never be able to forgive myself, and some people will never understand why. It is my choice, and I have chosen to live with that pain. It rests in my heart and festers there, and both good ways and bad. It pokes at me like a thorn, but it is because of that nagging ache in my chest that I will never leave a race early again.

But that thorn in my chest also makes me bleed. It makes me bleed eternal love and admiration for Dan, his family, and his friends. I have become a fan of his after his passing, and will remain so until my own demise.

Because that is the least I can do to assuage my grief over leaving that day.

“And if you were with me tonight, I’d sing to you just one more time. A song for a heart so big, God wouldn’t let it live. May angels lead you in, hear you me my friends. On sleepless roads the sleepless go, may angels lead you in.”
-Jimmy Eat World, “Hear You Me”

Maybe I failed you, Dan, or maybe you don’t see it that way. I don’t know. But I do know that I love you, Danny Boy, so so much, and I’m sorry for leaving early. For you, I promise it’ll never happen again.

Rest in peace, Lionheart.

Admin of the Andrettiville Tumblr

A post in which Andrettiville gets pissed at an anon.

You who just made snarky, heart related comments to my dear friend fuckedupdotcom, I have words for you:

You’re pathetic. You post hateful, disparaging comments in the ask boxes of people, but are too pathetic to put your name with them.

You know who you are. If you’re going to wish death upon someone, asshole, at least have the guts to put your fucking name and take credit for your despicable actions.

Admin of the Andrettiville Tumblr