Lacombe connection at Indy

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:19 AM ET

If you are Shawn Proud of Lacombe, this is just too cool.

His wife Kim grew up best friends with Susie Behm. They were each other's bridesmaids. And last year Susie invited them up for a visit at the Rexall Edmonton Indy.

Born in Red Deer, Susie lived in Lacombe for awhile.

Kim was Susie's bridesmaid last year when she married a fella by the name of Dan Wheldon.

That would be the Dan Wheldon, who won the 2005 Indianapolis 500. The same Dan Wheldon who is a past Indy Racing League champion. The same Dan Wheldon who will drive the No. 4 Panther Racing car when the IndyCar Series practice begins here this morning.

Put all that together and Shawn Proud gets a behind-the-scenes experience beyond belief.

"It was absolutely fantastic," Shawn said of the trip up to the race last year.

"The stuff around Lacombe is mostly stock cars and tractor pulls. We had a pit pass for the Indy race and it was just such a great experience. My friends called me all sorts of names. They wished they could be there.

"I don't know anybody famous myself and being around him was kind of like being around a rock star," he said of Wheldon.

Wife Kim said it's a whole different sandbox than the one she and Susie grew up in.

"It was great. It was awesome. We were only able to make it for qualifying last year. This year we'll be able to be there for the race, too."

Susie's sister and family and friends are driving in from Prince George and elsewhere. This year it's going to be a real reunion.

So how does a gal from my hometown of Lacombe end up with a race car driver from Emberton, England, known as "the baby-faced assassin" -- a guy who admits to having a shoe fetish (he has more than 300 pairs)?

Jim Beam, the world's finest bourbon, is responsible.

"I was a rookie driver for Andretti-Green Racing and she was working for Keystone Marketing doing PR work for Jim Beam, which sponsored the car," said Wheldon.

"We met in February 2003. When I moved to Target Chip Ganassi Racing, I hired her as a personal services employee and we ended up falling in love and getting married in 2008 and we now have a son Sebastian," he said.

"I'm a stay-at-home mom who doesn't stay at home," she laughed.

Being Mrs. Race Car Driver is not an easy life for some, but it's easier when you've been around the sport.

Susie says she's as relaxed as a wife can be on race day.

"There are things in the back of your head. You try not to think about those things. Now he's not just your friend, he's your husband and the father of your child. But I'm lucky because I've been around it so long now," she said.

"When you're in racing, it's nice to have someone who is in the business that you can share it all with," Wheldon said before walking the track yesterday afternoon.

"Some people think it's strange, but we never spend any time apart. We're incredibly happy."

Wheldon says Susie is making this week old home week.

"This year, there's lots of people coming."

Wheldon admits he can't really relate to the area yet, having not yet had the pleasure of visiting my hometown.

"All I know is that she comes from about an hour away from the track," he laughed.

"Well, I was born in Red Deer and my dad went to school at Canadian Union College in Lacombe and we lived in Lacombe," she said, explaining there was a later move to Armstrong, B.C., where she grew up with Kim, who then went to Canadian Union College in Lacombe, where she met her husband.

Susie returned as a bridesmaid for Kim's wedding in Lacombe and has visited on occasion, like last year during race month at Indianapolis. She then asked Kim to be her bridesmaid for her wedding in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Susie remembers her first meeting with her husband.

"It was a photo shoot. He was a rookie driver and I was a rookie PR person. I didn't know much. I certainly didn't imagine we'd end up on this road.

"We basically became good friends. Then he asked me to come and work for him. And ... well, here we are."

One husband.

One son.

And all those shoes.

"He definitely has more than me. I'm definitely not that high maintenance."


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