Ericsson won Indy 500, but a guy named Wadd is king of drivers: 'He'll go to war for you'

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·8 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Nestled in spot 65 of a makeshift village that settles each May, a lot filled with shiny, monstrous motorhomes of Indy 500 drivers (some costing upward of $2 million) is Dennis Weaks' throne.

Better known, only known, as "Wadd," he sits atop the driver's seat of Scott Dixon's motorhome. He drives Dixon and his family all over the country for IndyCar races. He's watched the family dogs. He's gone grocery shopping. He's given Dixon's goldfish "finger to gill resuscitation" the day it kept trying to die on him when Wadd was pet sitting.

But Wadd's reign doesn't end with Dixon. He may be Dixon's motorhome driver, but he is the king of the Indy 500 driver's lot.

Indy 500 crashes: Every crash from Sunday's Indianapolis 500

Wadd, who earned his nickname, well, there are different theories on that, got his start working on racing teams. But 15 years ago, Dixon asked him to come be his right-hand man, his driver.

"I've died and gone to heaven on earth," Wadd, 65, said during the Indy 500 Sunday, as he watched the race on a flat-screen TV on the outside of Dixon's home, sitting in a lawn chair, drinking Coors Lights. "This is the best thing that ever happened to me in my life."

He starts to cry. He cries several times Sunday. His heart is one made of gold, said Dave O'Brien, a longtime friend of Wadd.

"He is known for not just doing his job," O'Brien said, "but going above and beyond." 

Every driver it seems, past and present, knows Wadd. About 85% like him, Wadd says. The other 15%: "I'm up front. I tell it like it is," he said "Some don't like that."

Wadd is the guy who has been around "a hundred million years...since the sun rose in the sky," said Conor Daly.

"He's a good old-fashioned dude. He's the guy," Daly said. "He's the guy you trust. He's the guy checking on everyone's motorhome. He's the guy who pumps out all the (waste) from everyone's motorhome."

A thankless, disgusting job, but somebody has to do it. "And he'll do it for you," Daly said.

If an alarm's going off in a motorhome in the middle of the night and a driver needs help figuring out why (Wadd is also the Mr. Fix-It of the driver's lot) he'll answer his phone at 2:30 in the morning and be there to help.

"He'll go to war for you," Daly said. "He is the king."

'He's a good one'

While many call Wadd the king, Al Unser Jr. calls him the "mayor of the driver's lot," which is probably more accurate considering this is a small town. There are about 44 homes in the lot and nobody puts on royal airs.

People know who their leader is. When anyone has a question or needs anything -- a driver, a wife, a girlfriend, kids, team members, other motorhome drivers, anyone -- Wadd is there for them.

He has left to buy inflatable pools for drivers' children when the weather gets too hot. He has cleaned motor homes, fixed plumbing and he will turn from king to cop. Wadd is protective of all the drivers and has no problem sending away rowdy fans who've managed to get into the lot trying to get to drivers.

"All these guys out here racing are like my kids," Wadd said. But one kid, of course, is his favorite.

Dennis Weaks (right) with Scott Dixon this week.
Dennis Weaks (right) with Scott Dixon this week.

It was 2008, after Wadd had given up his work on racing crews, when his phone rang. It was Dixon

"I want you to drive my coach," Dixon told Wadd. "What would it take?"

The two started negotiating though Wadd said he was set on what he wanted. Dixon accepted every term.

"OK, where should I send the contract to?" Dixon asked him. No need for a contract, Wadd told him. "If you and me shake hands that's good enough for me."

And for 15 years, the handshake has stuck.

As the race roared Sunday, Wadd watched and yelled "Come on Scotty. Go baby." He beamed with pride as Dixon set the record for most laps led at an Indy 500.

Dixon's daughter, Poppy, came by to see Wadd.

"He's so nice. I love him," Poppy said. "He's a good one."

The nickname Wadd: 'I tried to fight it'

Wadd is a lifelong bachelor, though he did date Nancy George for about a year and a half back in the day. He's had other girlfriends along the way, but found with his traveling for IndyCar, being single is a great perk.

"I'm just opening up to you here," he says laughing. "If you don't have a girlfriend? Par-tay. Par-tay with Wadd."

Which raises the question. How did he get the nickname Wadd? Some people guess it's because he used to work for a team sponsored by Copenhagen, the chewing tobacco company. Some think he must be loaded with money, a wad of cash.

In reality, one night decades ago after a lot of drinking, Wadd said, he was trying to be funny and referred to himself as "Johnny Wadd," the nickname for adult film star John Holmes.

The guy who heard him say it passed it on and it kept getting passed on. "It took off," Wadd said. "I tried to fight it and I finally said 'to hell with it.'"

He has more important things to worry about. Wadd gets emotional as he talks about the stress of the month of May. There are 32 other motorhome drivers, but Indy is his home base; he lives in a condo on the northwest side of town.

The local Indy guy is the go to guy for just about everything,

"Sometimes, being the mayor is great," Wadd said. "Sometimes, being the mayor ain't no fun."

'I got hooked'

People were trying to come up and talk to Wadd Sunday morning before the race. They wanted to know what he was doing. He was pumping waste out of the drivers' motorhomes.

"People don't realize," he said. "The glamourous jobs around here."

Wadd hadn't slept well the night before. He never does, he said, the night before the Indy 500. Wadd lives in Indianapolis in a condo near Eagle Creek. He comes to the track at the crack of dawn to make sure drivers are taken care of.

When the race finally took off at 12:45 p.m., Wadd could "kind of" relax. And talk about his life.

Wadd grew up in Indianapolis and was a football star at Fulton Junior High and Ben Davis. He's not sure when he went to his first Indy 500. He just remembers his dad taking him into the stands between Turn 1 and Turn 2.

"And it was like my field of dreams," he said.

Dennis Weaks "Wadd" tells a story during Sunday's Indy 500.
Dennis Weaks "Wadd" tells a story during Sunday's Indy 500.

After high school, Wadd worked on race teams for 18 years. He worked as a fueler, took care of tires.

"I got hooked," he said. Then he got burnt out. Wadd decided he was going to drive a truck, but driving motorhomes was calling his name. He had driven for Jimmy Vasser and, in 2008, Dixon called.

Being a driver is like being a part of the Dixon family, Wadd said. And it's been a great family to be a part of. For every IndyCar win, Dixon gives Wadd $1,000. For every Indy 500 win, he gets $5,000 and for every IndyCar championship, that's another $5,000. Wadd has been there for five of Dixon's six titles and more than 40 IndyCar race wins.

"Money is just nothing to me," he said. "I don't give a (expletive deleted). If I've got enough money to pay my bills and buy my friends a beer, I'm good."

But winning does mean something to Wadd. He wants desperately for Dixon to find success.

Dennis Weaks "Wadd" wears an IndyCar championship ring as he watches the race Sunday outside Scott Dixon's motorhome. Weaks is Dixon's driver.
Dennis Weaks "Wadd" wears an IndyCar championship ring as he watches the race Sunday outside Scott Dixon's motorhome. Weaks is Dixon's driver.

At the championship banquet Wadd's first season with Dixon, he cried as Dixon talked about him. He cried when Dixon made sure Wadd got a championship ring with his name on it.

Wadd is such a big part of Dixon's life, but he's also a part of a lot of other racing families.

Bobby Rahal: 'He's like a general'

Bobby Rahal can't remember when he first met Wadd.

"God I don't know, a long time ago. I mean Wadd is like the wallpaper. He's been there forever," Rahal said. "He's like an old piece of furniture. You can't remember when you bought it, but it's there."

And Wadd is a fixture you want to keep on your good side, Rahal said.

"He's the general. He runs the show," he said. "You don't ever want to piss off Wadd. There could be some malady."

Rahal butters Wadd up by cooking out for him, steaks, barbecue chicken. Rahal laughs. He's half kidding.

"Wadd is a really good guy," Rahal said. "He never says 'no.' Anything I can do."

As Wadd watches the race Sunday, Dario Franchitti's youngest daughter walks up and gives him a hug. "Hi there sweetie," he says to her.

Dennis Weaks "Wadd" (right) watches the Indy 500 outside of Scott Dixons motor home Sunday. He sits with Brian Robson, Bobby Rahal's driver.
Dennis Weaks "Wadd" (right) watches the Indy 500 outside of Scott Dixons motor home Sunday. He sits with Brian Robson, Bobby Rahal's driver.

People come by to grab a Coors Light. Wadd has nine cases of cold beer for people on the "Wadd team."

It's just one thing Wadd does to make sure the lives of everyone in the driver's lot are  happy and run smoothly. After all this is his kingdom.

"Here's the deal," said Brian Robson, Rahal's motorhome driver. "They call Wadd the mayor, the mayor of the bus lot. He takes care of all of us."

Follow IndyStar sports reporter Dana Benbow on Twitter: @DanaBenbow. Reach her via email: dbenbow@indystar.com.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Scott Dixon's motorhome driver is king of Indianapolis 500 drivers