SAN FRANCISCO – The go-kart track was abuzz with a mix of professional athletes, Verizon IndyCar Series drivers, VIP guests and Navy SEALs, but the mission of the on-track fun was unmistakable – honoring the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil while raising money for a good cause.
The inaugural INDYCAR Celebrity Go Kart Challenge took place Monday afternoon at K1 Speed and raised approximately $40,000 for the SEAL Legacy Foundation, an organization providing support to wounded and fallen Navy SEALs, educational assistance for SEALs and their families and other charitable assistance benefiting the SEAL community.
“We’re extremely grateful,” said John Dalton, a member of the SEAL Legacy Foundation board of directors. “All the people that came here to support this event – including some of the greatest Bay Area athletes of all time. I’m tripping over my tongue talking to some of these guys.”
The competition featured a head-to-head battle among eight teams, each including an INDYCAR driver, celebrity athlete, Navy SEAL and two VIP guests chosen by each team owner.
“It was a great event and a phenomenal experience to be here working with Navy SEALs and with the SEAL Legacy Foundation,” said Ed Carpenter Racing driver JR Hildebrand, who was teamed with former San Francisco Giants first baseman JT Snow, one of his childhood idols. “It’s cool to be out here with these celebrities. I’m a Bay Area guy so I recognize a lot of these guys out here. To be able to share stories of all different kinds with athletes and these guys in the military is special.”
While all the participants were experienced in different levels of competition, not all were accustomed to the intensity of going wheel to wheel.
“I’m used to racing and I’m very competitive,” said Natalie Coughlin, 12-time Olympic medalist swimmer who was paired with former INDYCAR driver and current NBCSN analyst Townsend Bell. “But racing in a go-kart is quite different from racing in a pool – you crash into walls. I have actually crashed into a wall in the pool but I think it’s a little different.”
Former San Francisco 49ers running back Tom Rathman, who was inducted into the team’s prestigious Ring of Honor over the weekend, had an instant respect for the on-track action.
“It was like in-line (football) play out there,” Rathman said. “I can’t imagine these guys in the cockpit on a race day out there racing for two hours.”
Former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens teamed with 100th Indianapolis 500 winner Alex Rossi of Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian and was clearly one of the more aggressive athletes on the track.
“It’s good for me to hit somebody every once in a while, opposed to getting hit,” Owens joked. “But it was a good time.”
Owens’ aggression paid dividends, as he and Rossi led their team to victory over the second-place team led by Indy Lights driver Neil Alberico and former NHL all-star Scott Hannan and the third-place team of Hildebrand and Snow.
“There was no shortage of bravery from the athletes, maybe a bit of technique that’s missing, but it’s all for a good cause,” Rossi said. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to be a part of this support for the SEAL Legacy Foundation and everything they do for veterans and their families. This is very special for us and it’s amazing to see such athlete support from all different (types) of sports. It’s very cool to be a part of.”
See highlights from the karting event here: