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Wheldon was much better known in racing circles.

“Two victories in the Indy 500 put him in a very select group of drivers,” British Racing Drivers’ Club president Derek Warwick said. “Dan was a true professional and a great ambassador for the sport. He was highly focused in the way he approached his racing and a real perfectionist.

“With his film-star good looks and athletic prowess, it was no wonder that the American public took him to their hearts.”

Jenson Button, Hamilton’s teammate at McLaren, was one of Wheldon’s rivals in junior karting in the 1990s, describing him as a “true fighter.”

“We’ve lost a legend in our sport but also a great guy,” Button said on Twitter.

Wheldon had been scheduled to compete next weekend in the Gold Coast 600 at Surfers Paradise, Australia, teaming with V8 Supercar champion James Courtney as a co-driver for the two 300-kilometer touring car races.

Two IndyCar drivers have pulled out of the event _ Australian Will Power, who injured his back in Sunday’s crash in Las Vegas, and Tony Kanaan of Brazil.

“Tony was probably Dan’s closest friend in the racing fraternity and we fully support his decision,” V8 series chairman Tony Cochrane said.

Cochrane said Ryan Briscoe of Australia, Alex Tagliani of Canada and Helio Castroneves of Brazil will remain in the race.

“We want to run a great event on the weekend as a true testament to a true champion in Dan Wheldon,” he said.