This race driver is passionate about his cars and is always on the lookout for the next great one.
When it comes to cars, Dan Wheldon admits he’s a “flipper.”
That stunning, flame-red Aston Martin DB9 you see him leaning on, outside his Florida crib? By the time you read this, chances are he’ll have flipped it for a new Ferrari F430. Or maybe a new $250,000 Ferrari 599 GTB. Or maybe another Aston.
“I admit it: I’m a first-class flipper,” says the 2005 Indianapolis 500 winner and current Indy Racing League (IRL) series hotshot. “Not so long ago I had seven cars in the driveway . . . a new BMW M6, a BMW 330i, and a tricked-out Range Rover. I forget the rest.
“I woke up one morning and just decided to flip them. So this guy comes round, offers me a quarter of a million for the lot, and by five o’clock they’re on his truck and away.”
When you’re 29 years old, single, sexy, and at the very top of your game with money in your pocket, the thrill, according to Britain-born Wheldon, is continually having something new to play with.
Certainly the fun-loving driver is at the top of his game right now, even though winning the Indy 500 wasn’t in the cards this year and he did not win the series championship after collecting the title in 2005 and coming a close runner-up for the 2006 season. When he’s not behind the wheel of his 240-m.p.h. Honda-powered singleseat open-wheel race car, Wheldon is either at some Hollywood party or kicking back at his waterfront mansion in St. Petersburg, Fla., enjoying his toys.
And what a collection. The current lineup includes that $200,000 Aston DB9, a black Hummer H2, the latest all-wheel-drive Acura RL, a unique 2005 Chevy Corvette Indy pace car that he received for winning the Indy 500, plus a screamin’ 1,000-c.c. Honda race bike.
For those times he has to be at team headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind., he keeps his new supercharged Jaguar XKR Coupe and an Acura MDX sport ute in the underground parking lot of the new apartment he just bought.
“I have to admit I do like the Aston. I’m still a little bit patriotic for England and it takes me back to the Old Country. Growing up, my dad’s company was based in Newport Pagnell, which is where they used to build Astons, so I used to see them all the time.”
So what’s the bright red, 450-horsepower, V12-engined British supercar like to drive?
“I have to admit that I do go a bit crazy in it. I’m normally very safe on the roads,” he says. “But I have been known to doughnut-it-up in front of my house.
“And the first week I had it, there wasn’t a stoplight that I didn’t drive away from without a smokey burnout. It does bring out the worst in me.”
Maybe that will change if Wheldon puts a new Ferrari in his garage. His teammate and close buddy, Tony Kanaan, has a new F430 and has been singing its praises. It’s either that or the new V12-engined 599 GTB.
“‘Course, if money were no object, my dream car would be an (Ferrari) Enzo. To me, that’s the ultimate Ferrari, the ultimate supercar. It’d be like having a racecar in your garage. But $1.2 million for a used one is a bit steep for me.”
As for the blacked-out 2007 Hummer H2 filling
most of his
driveway, Wheldon says he loves the monster truck. He uses it as his daily driver and has tricked it out with 20-inch chrome rims.
“It’s so not me. And my dad really hates it. Hates what it stands for as a gas-guzzling monster. But I love driving it.”
When he has a few miles to cover — maybe to go to a test session at Daytona, or Sebring, or a party in Miami — Wheldon says he likes to take his stealthy-black Acura RL. It’s customized with a set of 20-inch wheels but he’s planning to have it lowered and a trick TV system installed in the back.
“I want something different than the usual seven-inch screens in the back of the headrests. I’m looking at having a 20-inch LCD screen mounted on some kind of adjustable bracket on the center console. I’m still refining the idea.”
One car that most likely won’t ever be flipped is the red 2005 Corvette Indy Pace Car. At the time of Celebrity Car Magazine’s visit, it only had 70 miles on the clock and it rarely sees daylight. Wheldon says he’ll never sell it, as it always reminds him of his momentous victory in 2005.
“Winning the 500 is the best. It really puts a stamp on your career, really puts you on the map. It was definitely a defining moment for me. It’s certainly a wonderful feeling to be in the company of the racing greats who’ve won it in the past: A. J. Foyt and Rick Mears, and Britain’s Graham Hill and Jim Clark.”
So what does it feel like to be doing well over 200 m.p.h. around one of the most famous tracks in the world, competing in one of the world’s great races?
“It’s a very special place. I remember once, in qualifying, going into Turn Three and looking down and seeing 246 m.p.h. We were light on downforce, so the car wasn’t really sticking to the track; it was just skating across the surface. That was nice. A little scary. But nice.”
¦ Celebrity Car is produced by Wheelbase Communications in conjunction with quarterly publication Celebrity Car Magazine (celebritycarmagazine.com) and the duPont Registry (dupontregistry.com).