Wheldon Boys get Andretti, Gainbridge Support

Oliver and Sebastian Wheldon have the support of Andretti Autosport and Gainbridge in their racing endeavors - photo courtesy Andretti Autosport
Oliver and Sebastian Wheldon have the support of Andretti Autosport and Gainbridge in their racing endeavors – photo courtesy Andretti Autosport

Sebastian and, especially Oliver Wheldon never got to know their father, Dan, who was killed in the 2011 IZOD IndyCar World Championship season finale on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway 1.5-mile oval. Wheldon, the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner for the second time, had been challenged with a $5 million payout if he were to win the race. The offer was made to any driver who wasn’t full-time in the series and the driver had to start from the rear and win the race. Wheldon accepted the challenge.

Because this was the season finale, and also the last race for the then-current Indy car, there were 34 cars that qualified for the event, with Tony Kanaan earning the pole position. On the 11th lap, the accident that would claim Wheldon’s life began on the front straight between Wade Cunningham and James Hinchcliffe. The result was mayhem and it was Wheldon who would suffer the fate of dying in a back stretch fireball. The race was called, taps were played and the season was over. A total of 15 cars were involved in this crash and officials quickly stopped the 19 cars still running, sending them to their pit boxes. A red flag period ensued.

Once reality set in, all remaining drivers made five laps in tribute to Wheldon, while the only noise that could be heard was the wail of the engines and the crying of those remaining on-site after learning of Wheldon’s death. The championship went to Dario Franchitti, based on points leading into the Las Vegas contest. It was the champion’s tears for his former teammate Wheldon that seared the minds of everyone present. 

At the time, Sebastian was a toddler and Oliver not even a year old. Nearly twelve years have passed since then, but Wheldon’s widow, Susie has kept his memory alive for their sons, who both gravitated to motorsports. Perhaps it was in their blood? Susie Wheldon never discouraged either of her two sons from enjoying racing, even though she knew the pluses and minuses of the sport more than most. The boys started in karts and have been successful in their endeavors.

Which brings us to the present day and the opportunities these two aspiring racers are gaining, through the endeavors of Andretti Autosport and one of its major partners, Gainbridge which, through its parent company Group 1001, is in its sixth year partnering the team and has been represented in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for five seasons.

Almost two years ago, Michael Andretti announced an expansion to his team’s development efforts, adding Sebastian and Oliver Wheldon as Andretti Autosport junior drivers. The team has long been committed to developing crew members and engineering talent in addition to young hot shoes, throughout its maze of racing activities. 

Oliver Wheldon tried out Marco Andretti’s race car at St. Petersburg in 2016 – Anne Proffit photo

Thanks to that commitment, both Sebastian, now 14 and 12-year-old  Oliver receive oversight and career guidance from Michael Andretti, as well as  from members of the Indianapolis-based team. Their father recorded his first Indianapolis 500 victory with Andretti’s team in 2005 and Michael Andretti felt this obligation to help them succeed. They are but two of the drivers the team has helped gain achievements in the ranks of open-wheel racing through INDYCAR’s Road to Indy efforts, dating back to 2005.

In their 2023 racing endeavors, Sebastian and Oliver Wheldon will have Gainbridge branding on their racing machines as they continue to build on Dan’s legacy. Andretti acknowledged that “both boys have continued to impress us through their karting competition, and Sebastian recently completed a successful test day in an F4 car,” Andretti said. “They are on the right track and we have no doubt they will continue to positively build the legacy set by Dan.”

“I’ve been working really hard and this year, I’m ready to move out of karts and into cars,” Sebastian said. “It’s a big transition, but I’m excited. I couldn’t do any of it without the support of my family or without a sponsor like Gainbridge joining us. I want to thank Michael and Mr. [Dan] Towriss (of Group 1001) for believing in me. I am looking forward to the year ahead and learning a lot.”

Susie, Sebastian and Oliver Wheldon at the 2018 Indianapolis 500 – Anne Proffit photo

Raising two children on her own hasn’t been easy for Susie Wheldon, but she has had the support of her many friends in the INDYCAR paddock, from drivers, families, crews, media, officials. She’s been welcomed as a member of the INDYCAR family whenever she’s at a track. 

“The junior ladder system in formula racing can be difficult to navigate and it’s overwhelming at times,” Susie Wheldon recounted. “I am so grateful to Michael and the Andretti Autosport organization. To now have the support of Gainbridge is a game changer. For the boys to have a partner that is invested in their future as racing drivers is incredible. It is exciting to see Sebastian and Oliver progress through the ranks and this brings them one step closer to realizing their goals.”

Oliver Wheldon is continuing to progress in the karting ranks and is looking forward to his 2023 season. “I think Andretti Autosport and Gainbridge can help me a lot as I work to become a professional racing driver. I will continue to work hard to win at the karting level, and look forward to what’s next.”

 

Outside its Andretti partnership, Gainbridge’s brand provides a digital platform with simple and direct access to trusted financial products, offering the benefits of steady growth, simplicity and transparency. The company is active across multiple sporting properties, including Indianapolis’ Gainbridge Fieldhouse supporting the Pacers and Fever, LGPA’s THE ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican, Parity Now and NASCAR’s Rev Racing. Gainbridge is the presenting partner of the Indianapolis 500.

About Anne Proffit 1074 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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