Nightly News   |  October 22, 2011

NASCAR, family remembers Wheldon

Dan Wheldon, the race car driver killed last Sunday in a horrible crash, was honored by his adopted town of St. Petersburg on Saturday and at races across the U.S. NBC's Mark Potter reports.

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LESTER HOLT, anchor: In Florida today a funeral was held for Dan Wheldon , the British Indy 500 winner who was killed last Sunday in a horrible crash in Las Vegas . NBC 's Mark Potter reports.

MARK POTTER reporting: Dan Wheldon 's death was a devastating loss for both the racing community and his adopted community of St. Petersburg , Florida , where hundreds of local residents lined up today to pay their respects at his funeral service . Wheldon moved his family here six years ago and was very well liked.

Unidentified Man: He made his home here and loved it here, and we loved him. And it was a big loss to us. It'll take a while to get over it.

Mr. BILL FOSTER (St. Petersburg, Florida Mayor): He's just been a great citizen, great husband, great father. And this entire community will miss him.

Sports Announcer: Oh, here we go. Trouble. Contact, and a huge crash.

POTTER: Wheldon was killed during a race in Las Vegas during a horrific 15-car pileup in which his vehicle flew into the air, hit a wall and burst into flames.

Sports Announcer: It looks like Dan Wheldon may be involved in it.

POTTER: A team of doctors worked feverishly to save him, but his injuries were too severe.

Mr. RANDY BERNARD (IndyCar CEO): IndyCar is very sad to announce that Dan Wheldon has passed away from unsurvivable injury.

POTTER: The two time Indianapolis 500 winner and reigning champion now leaves behind his wife, Susie , and two small boys. Trish Thomas was a neighbor who witnessed the love between Wheldon and his wife.

Ms. TRISH THOMAS: They had just reached such a good part in their life, and when I saw that car flying, I thought, 'Oh no, it's over.'

POTTER: Among those at the funeral country star Wynonna Judd , who sang during the service.

Mr. WYNONNA JUDD: He was just a cocky little thing and he had such assurance and I loved that. You know, I was raised to have attitude and I just loved his spirit.

POTTER: And Wheldon is also being remembered this weekend at NASCAR races in Talladega and at a memorial in Indianapolis , as his adopted neighbors also say goodbye to the champion they knew as a regular guy. Mark Potter , NBC News, St. Petersburg.