FONTANA, CA - FEBRUARY 3: (FILE PHOTO) Andretti Green Racing IndyCar driver Daniel Wheldon during the annual Indycar Series pre-season "Test in the West" on February 3, 2003 at the California Speedway in Fontana, California. Wheldon died today, October 16, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada during the IZOD IndyCar World Championships when his car was involved in a 15-car wreck. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
IndyCar holds its first race since the October death of Dan Wheldon this weekend in St. Petersburg.
There typically isn't a lot of IZOD IndyCar Series coverage on SBNation.com.
In a media environment where web traffic is increasingly a deciding factor of editorial decisions, NASCAR almost always wins out when matched against IndyCar, the open-wheel series which has struggled to gain attention since the infamous mid-90s split.
This weekend, though, is different. Instead of covering the NASCAR race in Fontana, SB Nation is on the scene in St. Petersburg for the IndyCar Series season opener.
There are plenty of intriguing storylines this season for IndyCar – the series is using a new chassis, has new engine suppliers and is welcoming one big-name driver (former F1 pilot Rubens Barrichello) while moving on without another (Danica Patrick).
But by far the biggest topic in St. Petersburg is IndyCar's first race since the death of Dan Wheldon. In what is expected to be a highly emotional weekend, drivers will climb back into their cars for the first race action since that tragic October day at Las Vegas when Wheldon was killed in a horrific crash.
Adding to the emotion is the location of the race. St. Pete is Wheldon's adopted hometown, the place where his widow and two children still live and the place where IndyCar came to mourn at his funeral.
How will the drivers handle the difficult task of focusing on the race and mourning their friend at the same time? What will the event feel like without the popular hometown driver gracing those in the garage with his ever-present grin? And can IndyCar move on with racing while still remembering last year's Indy 500 champion in a proper way?
We felt this was an important story to cover and report back to you, and that's why we're here this weekend.
– Visit our IndyCar Series blog, PopOffValve.com;
– Read Autoweek's story on the emotional weekend ahead;
– Read USA Today's cover story on how Wheldon's death has left a lasting impact on the drivers.