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Stars turn out for Dan Wheldon Memorial Karting Challenge
26 October 2013
Former rivals will turn out to honour the legacy of Dan Wheldon this weekend, as they take part in the inaugural Dan Wheldon Memorial Pro-Am Karting Challenge at New Castle Motorsports Park in Indiana.
While post-season kart, and charity, events have been commonplace in the US, the memory of the late IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion lives on with an all-star race that will benefit the Alzheimer's Association, a foundation that had special significance to Wheldon after his mother was diagnosed with the disease in 2008.
Among the IndyCar drivers expected to race in the pro-am competition are 2013 series champion Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Tristan Vautier, Ed Carpenter, JR Hildebrand, Alex Tagliani, Conor Daly, Martin Plowman and Jay Howard, as well as newly crowned Firestone Indy Lights champion Sage Karam and the now-retired Bryan Herta, who was both team-mate and car owner for Wheldon. Marino Franchitti will substitute for brother Dario, who was injured in a race incident in Houston, and will be joined on the entry by Scott and Mark Borchetta of Big Machine Records, various members of the Wheldon family and former IndyCar driver PJ Chesson.
The two-hour race, which takes place on Saturday [26 October], will see the drivers divided into twelve teams, all competing on the serpentine one-mile New Castle circuit. The pro-am challenge will be part of the tenth RoboPong 200 race weekend, an endurance karting event that Wheldon won in 2005 – the same year he won the Indianapolis 500 and the IZOD IndyCar Series championship.
Many of the same INDYCAR drivers competing in the challenge will participate in the RoboPong 200, including former race winners Carpenter and Howard, plus Will Power, Simona de Silvestro, Stefan Wilson, James Davison, Matthew DiLeo and Logan Gomez.
Firestone Racing – which is donating tyres for the event - is sponsoring one of the pro-am entries, with IndyCar Series driver Sebastian Saavedra teaming with a trio of Firestone Complete Auto Care employees.
“This is a great way to celebrate Dan's memory and help with a cause that meant so much to him,” Lisa Boggs, director of Bridgestone Americas Motorsports, insisted, “Dan was a close friend of the Firestone Racing family, and we jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this special event.”
“I am honoured that Firestone Racing asked me to be its pro driver for the pro-am,” Saavedra added, “Dan was a true friend to all of the other drivers, so I am proud to compete in this event in his honour. Plus, with the Firestone team behind me and Bridgestone tyres on our kart, I know we'll have a great showing.”
A silent auction accompanying the on-track action will include a karting suit worn and signed by Wheldon.
Admission is free and competitors will participate in an autograph session at 1145hrs.