Dan Wheldon memorial to be unveiled today in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A special memorial for IndyCar Series race driver Dan Wheldon will be unveiled in St. Petersburg on Thursday.

Wheldon, who lived in the city with his wife and two sons, died in a 15-car crash in 2011 during the season's last race in Las Vegas.

Dan's wife Susie, will wave the green flag to start the race Sunday.

Representatives from the City of St. Petersburg, Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, American Honda and INDYCAR will unveil the Dan Wheldon memorial and Victory Circle monument on Bayside Drive behind Turn 10 of the race track.

Drivers from the IndyCar Series are expected to attend the unveiling, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Due to the location of the event, the general public is not invited to attend.  The monuments will be open and available to the public during race weekend and after dismantling of the race course is complete.

Wheldon was born in Emberton, England, but the 33-year-old Indy Car champion always made it a point to say he considered St. Petersburg home.

The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner lived in Snell Isle with his wife, Susie, and two sons Sebastian, and Oliver.

He was known up-and-down on nearby 4th Street in St. Petersburg.

At Einstein Bagels, Wheldon was a frequent customer, often sitting at the table right near the door adjacent to the counter.

"I just knew him as a guy our manager knew. He was a down-to-earth great guy who would come in, make jokes and laugh with us," said Dave Zwicharowski. "About a month later, I asked my boss 'Who is this guy?' And he said 'You don't recognize him?' and I said 'No.' He was really down-to-earth for a sports star and a celebrity."

Trey LaBrant felt the same about Wheldon, who was killed Sunday after being involved in a 15-car crash during an Indy Car race in Las Vegas.

LaBrant did landscaping at Wheldon's house, then worked at Mariner's Car Wash and Detailing Center, where Wheldon's family would often go.

"I really haven't slept too much since (the crash). I was up all night thinking about him and his family," LaBrant said. "What I'm going to remember him as is the man with the million-dollar smile. He had a smile that lit up a room.

Both Mariner's Car Wash and Ringside Cafe changed their street-side signs Monday to honor Wheldon. The car wash's sign read "We love you, Dan."

"He was very personable," said Mariner's general manager John Richmond. "He wanted to meet the public. He wanted to show he wasn't above anyone else. He was a normal person."

On Thursday at the St. Petersburg City Council meeting, Mayor Bill Foster will issue a resolution of bereavement in tribute to Wheldon.

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