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Scott Brayton

A fateful connection

There are fan tributes and there are fan tributes when someone as accomplished and effervescent as Dan Wheldon dies suddenly, as racers regrettably sometimes do.

But the one that popped up in my email today seems especially poignant.

It's from a man named Todd Brayton, and if that names sounds vaguely familiar, it should. He's the brother of Scott Brayton, whom Wheldon joined Sunday on the darkest of all possible lists: Both are among the four IndyCar drivers to die racing since 1996.

It was May of '96 when Scott Brayton was killed in practice at Indianapolis, six days after winning the pole position for the 500-Mile Race. Three years later, his brother's wife gave birth to a son, whom they named Hunter.

Fast forward a decade. Hunter, now 12, races go-karts, having been bitten by the same bug that once so fiercely bit his late uncle. Last month, he was at the World Karting Association Manufacturers Cup event at New Castle Motorsports Park. It just so happens that Dan Wheldon, who cut his racing teeth on go-karts, was competing there himself.

"He took time to help other young drivers, including my son, Hunter, (who) is determined that he will one day win the 500," Todd Brayton wrote in his e-mail. "I can't tell you what it meant to Hunter to see the Indy 500 champion racing at the same event he was, and be able to spend time with him.

"That shows you what a class individual Dan is; not was."

He concludes: "Having been through this before, please do whatever it takes to support his family. Dan is in a better place, but they unfortunately are not right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Susie, Sebastian and Oliver. We are here for you.

"Godspeed,

"The Brayton Family."

Attached to the e-mail, Brayton included this note: "Sorry. I needed a day to get myself together before I could send this."

Gee. Couldn't imagine why, could you?

Ben Smith's blog.

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