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That’s not to say the IRL hasn’t had bigger winners. But neither driver has been able to carry the league to prominence. He combines Hornish’s youth with Castroneves’ gregariousness, and the mix has put him front and center in the league’s driver-marketing campaign—an attempt to make IRL personalities more competitive with the Jeff Gordons and Dale Earnhardt Jrs.

of the world in the bid for TV revenue and race-attendance dollars.

James considers himself a hardcore racing fan, fancying the stock cars above all, but with an active enthusiasm for the open-wheelers.

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Button, a contemporary of Wheldon’s during their karting days, wrote on Twitter: “Just woken up to the most horrific news. I have so many good memories of racing with Dan in the early 90s, a true fighter.” The 2009 Formula One world champion, who had flown to Tokyo following Sunday’s Korean Grand Prix, added: “We've lost a legend in our sport but also a great guy...

I can't begin to imagine what his family are going through and my thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.” Hamilton said in a statement: “This is an extremely sad day.

Martin Whitmarsh, the team principal of Mc Laren, said that Wheldon’s death highlighted “the bitter contrast that sometimes exists between the highs and lows of motorsport.” “The motorsport world is now in mourning following Dan’s passing,” Tributes from the world of sport were not confined to motor racing, with footballer Wayne Rooney and golfer Ian Poulter among those to pass on their condolences to Wheldon’s family.

Indy Car chief executive Randy Bernard, who had told Wheldon’s colleagues of his fate before they decided to do a five-lap salute, is now likely to face a difficult time as questions are asked of his series’ safety record.

Once, in July 2007, he even invited us in to his home, letting us showcase his condo in our pages.

of the 2005 IRL season, and Bruce James needs a new hat.

While NASCAR’s faces are almost exclusively white American guys, half the IRL roster hails from other continents, coming from Brazil, Scotland, Japan, Australia and the Czech Republic.

Having failed to connect with these unfamiliar faces, James has all but resolved to settle for a generic IRL hat. “I’m just starting to follow Dan Wheldon.”Dan Wheldon?

Dan was a racer I’d followed throughout my career, as I often followed in his footsteps as we climbed the motorsport ladder in the UK. As a British guy, who not only went over to the States but who twice won the Indy500, he was an inspirational guy, and someone that every racing driver looked up to with respect and admiration. My heart goes out to his family and friends during this extremely difficult time.” Wheldon was on the 13th lap of the 300-mile race – in which cars reach speeds of 225mph – when several drivers ahead of him were involved in a collision on the second turn.

Video footage of the accident shows Wheldon’s car clip another vehicle, catapulting it over a car and into a fence around the track before catching fire.

You mean the boy-faced, twentysomething Brit with gel-spiked hair and a penchant for high-style shoes and designer clothes?