While the racing world watched in awe Sunday, Heather Carpenter was waiting in the pits to rush to her husband's side.
"My initial reaction was, like it always is, is everyone okay," Carpenter said.
Carpenter said she knew early on her husband Ed Carpenter was not one of the drivers involved in the 15 car crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the final race of the IZOD IndyCar Series season.
- Bio | E-mail | Recent columns
- Dan Wheldon's widow to be presented with Champion of Champions ring
- Fans to honor Dan Wheldon at Indy 500 with white sunglasses
- Fans to remember, celebrate Dan Wheldon during Race Day festivities
- Lionhart Car
- Dan Wheldon to be remembered on Indy 500 tickets
- Photos: Indy racing crash kills Dan Wheldon
See more photos »
- A Video Obituary To Dan Wheldon
- Remembering Dan Wheldon Through A 500 Movie
- IndyCar Drivers Mourn, Remember Dan Wheldon In Las Vegas
- Dan Wheldon
- Auto Racing
- The Carpenters (music group)
See more topics »
When she learned Dan Wheldon was the most seriously injured, she rushed to his wife Susie's side. Carpenter calls the racing world a family and said right now the focus needs to be on supporting the family Wheldon leaves behind.
She also said in the days following Wheldon's death, it's been difficult to hear criticism of the race, the safety of the cars, and the sport itself.
"It's definitely a time to show people that yeah, you know, it's dangerous, but if it weren't dangerous, everyone would do it. I mean, what guy doesn't want to go fast in his car?
"While people are criticizing it, I feel like someone needs to say 'look, you don't know what you're talking about.'
"They are way safer out there than they are anywhere else, and it just happens to be what they do for a living," Carpenter said, after referencing several daytime talk shows that have touched on the incident without providing much background information on the sport.
Carpenter met her husband while working as a nurse for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's medical center. Ed Carpenter is the stepson of Indy Racing League founder Tony George, who Heather explained worked to implement many of the safety standards and features found in IndyCar cars today.
Ed Carpenter was involved in the 2006 crash during warm ups that claimed driver Paul Dana's life. After that crash, the Carpenters got involved in the creation of the Indy Family Foundation. The foundation provides financial help to drivers, crew members and their families who are going through tough times.
Carpenter said the primary focus now is supporting the Wheldon family. She said the danger of the sport serves as a neverending reminder to hold your loved ones close.
"Yes you think about [the dangers of racing] but it's more of just thanking God for every day and letting your family know how much you love them and never letting them not know that, your family and your friends," she said.