INDIANAPOLIS – The month of May brings out the competition among NTT IndyCar Series drivers as they go for racing immortality in the Indianapolis 500. But on Wednesday, the competition for some was all in fun and for a great cause.
Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden hosted his second annual ping pong challenge at Smash Social in downtown Indianapolis, with the event benefiting the SeriousFun Children’s Network – the official charity partner of INDYCAR. A total of $85,000 in donations was raised from sponsors including Shell, Firestone, DEEM/CSC, MillerCoors and Big Machine Vodka.
SeriousFun is the rebranded “Hole in the Wall” foundation created by late actor and Indy car team co-owner Paul Newman to provide children with serious illnesses a fun camp experience and high-quality medical care. SeriousFun has camps around the world in North America, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.
A host of NTT IndyCar Series drivers who will be racing in Sunday’s 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge competed in doubles competition for a specially crafted trophy created by SecondShift Art. In addition to Newgarden, others participating were Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe, Conor Daly, Kyle Kaiser, Colton Herta, Matheus Leist, Spencer Pigot, Charlie Kimball and Jack Harvey. There was also a special guest player in Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who teamed with his friend Kimball.
The single-elimination competition was whittled to two teams playing for the prized trophy: the Team Penske duo of Newgarden and Castroneves against Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser and his playing partner, Chuck Simmons.
In an “instant classic,” Newgarden and Castroneves edged out the win 21-16. Since there was no nearby fence to climb as he does after he wins an Indy car race, Castroneves leaped on top of the table to celebrate. A laughing Newgarden was happy but a little embarrassed.
“I kind of feel bad winning my own tournament,” the driver of the No. 2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet said. “But I trained for this. I brought in Helio this year to win and there was no other option. I beat him last year in it, so I wanted him on my side this time.”
More importantly, Newgarden was focused on the ultimate purpose of the event – to raise funds for SeriousFun – and his involvement with the foundation.
“I was always aware of Paul Newman’s foundation. Once they went through the rebranding to SeriousFun, it’s been fun to watch it all grow,” he said. “Paul was such a prominent member of the racing community and I was such a fan of his as well. Once I saw them become more prominent again in INDYCAR racing, I just wanted to get involved and help support.
Newgarden thanked Shell, Firestone and Big Machine Vodka for their involvement in the event.
Clea Newman, the daughter of Paul Newman and a SeriousFun ambassador, attended the challenge. She continues to be pleased with the INDYCAR community’s support from this event and others.
“Josef came up with this idea last year and he tripled the support in it this year, which is incredible,” Newman said. “I mean, it’s physically sending 25 children to each of our camps with this support. We had 163,000 children and their families go to our camps. This helps us a lot to help us provide these camps free of charge for them.
“Josef is just so awesome and the whole INDYCAR family has gotten behind us,” Newman added. “I miss being around the INDYCAR family and I’m really thankful how they all got behind us in this effort.”
Newgarden’s goal is to continue growing the annual ping pong challenge. He aims to raise at least $100,000 as soon as next year.
“It’s cool to have the INDYCAR drivers come out here,” he said. “They’re all so supportive and it was really cool,” he said. We have such a great support system from the people of INDYCAR and Indianapolis as a whole to help make this what it is.”
Those unable to attend Wednesday’s event can support SeriousFun in two ways: buy a “Leave Your Legacy” t-shirt with 100 percent of the $30 price going to SeriousFun, or make a donation to the SeriousFun Children’s Network.