Oct 3, 2013
Drivers from various racing backgrounds will come together Oct. 26 to compete in The Dan Wheldon Memorial Pro-Am Karting Challenge at New Castle (Ind.) Motorsports Park.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Alzheimer's Association, a cause Wheldon worked to raise awareness for after his mother was diagnosed with the illness in 2008.
"It's a fitting tribute as Dan was a great champion of our work and took great interest in the programs for individuals in the early stages of the disease," said Heather Hershberger, executive director of the Alzheimer's Association Greater Indiana Chapter. "While saddened that Alzheimer's has personally touched his family, we are inspired by this generous and moving tribute."
The challenge will consist of 12 corporate-sponsored teams in a timed 2-hour race beginning at 12:30 p.m. (ET). Each team will have one pro driver paired with three amateurs. Gates open at 7 a.m. and admission is free. The pro drivers will also take part in an autograph session before the start of the race.
"I'm thrilled to be taking part in this race," said James Hinchcliffe, who will be driving for the Firestone-sponsored team. "It's such a cool way to do it, by combining two of Dan's passions, karting and Alzheimer's awareness."
The challenge will be part of the RoboPong 200 race weekend, an endurance event Wheldon loved to compete in during the offseason. Wheldon co-drove the winning kart in the first RoboPong race.
Drivers and sponsors were quick to sign up for the race when asked to participate by Wheldon's widow Susie, including three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti, who was a teammate of Wheldon during the start of his IndyCar Series career.
"I'm really looking forward to competing in the race," said Franchitti who will be driving for Big Machine Records. "It'll be fun to get back in a kart for the first time in a long time and most importantly to raise awareness of Alzheimer's, something which Dan was so passionate about."
Wheldon, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, was one of INDYCAR's most popular drivers and is remembered not only for his success on the track, but as much for his charismatic personality and devotion to fans as well as the up and coming drivers in the series.
This is the first event that Susie Wheldon has officially organized and hosted in the name of her husband, who died from injuries suffered in a race in October 2011.
"I feel so blessed to have had such an overwhelming response from people wanting to contribute," she said. "The outpouring of support goes to show what kind of person Dan was and how he affected those he met. I couldn't be more proud. Being able to carry on his legacy with an event like this, benefiting the Alzheimer's Association, is something very special."
A piece of racing memorabilia from Wheldon's personal collection will also be auctioned off at the event, by way of silent auction.