KARTS: Dan Wheldon Memorial Kart Classic Set for September 20

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INDIANAPOLIS – official release — David Heithaus photo — The stars of IndyCar will have one more race before their off-season begins, but it won’t be behind the wheel of the cars they are used to.

On Sept. 20 The Dan Wheldon Memorial Pro-Am Karting Challenge will take place at New Castle Motorsports Park where participants will race to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Ass’n, a cause that became close to Wheldon after his mother was diagnosed in 2008 and sadly passed away from the disease in April.

The event, in its inaugural year last year, raised more than $100,000 to establish The Sue Wheldon Fund. The fund supported a New Investigator Research Grant and early-stage programs of the Greater Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Ass’n. This year the Wheldon family will expand their scope of support to include programs of the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter.

“We at the Alzheimer’s Ass’n Florida Gulf Coast Chapter continue to be humbled by the generous hearts of the entire Wheldon family,” said Gloria Smith, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Ass’n’s Florida Gulf Coast Chapter. “Even through their own tragedies, they continue to extend their hands of support to help thousands of other families living with Alzheimer’s disease. We value the friendship and support they have so graciously shown us and the community.”

The challenge will continue with the same format as last year with corporate-sponsored teams consisting of one professional driver and three amateur drivers for a timed 2-hour event beginning at 12:30 p.m. Gates open at 7 a.m. and admission is free. The pro drivers will also take part in an autograph session from 11:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Because of the success of last year’s event sponsors from last year were eager to participate again.

“Dan meant so much to American Honda, and to the people of American Honda and HPD,” said T.E. McHale, Manager, Public Relations, American Honda. “It is no exaggeration to say that we miss him daily, and this is one of the several ways we can contribute to securing his ongoing legacy. We applaud the great work being done by Susie in his memory, and are pleased once again to support The Dan Wheldon Memorial Pro-Am Karting Challenge in 2014. We are also delighted to welcome Dan’s sister, holly, to Team Honda, as we look to improve on our runner-up finish in last year’s event”

IndyCar standout Josef Newgarden was the pro driver for Team Honda last year and returns this year for the much anticipated event.

“The DW Pro-Am Challenge is a very special time for all the IndyCar family, and it’s a race I look forward to all year long, “ said Josef Newgarden, whose Honda-sponsored team took home a second-place finish last year. “I’ve been racing at New Castle since I was a little kid and it’s the first place I ever met Dan as a young racer. His love and energy for our sport was so captivating and he was truly an inspiration to me as a young racer. I always look forward to coming back and sharing his legacy with everyone and also using it as an opportunity to help a wonderful cause in raising money in memory of Dan’s mom.”

Big Machine Records took home top honors last year finishing first with Marino Franchitti, who stepped in for his brother Dario after he was involved in a serious accident during the Houston IndyCar race.

“To say it was an honor for the Big Machine Team to win the inaugural Dan Wheldon Memorial Pro-Am, well, there are really no words to describe it,” said Scott Borchetta, President and CEO of Big Machine Label Group. “As we all know, Dan was a master on and off the track but it was always clear, he was at the track to win. To keep his legacy alive with a great win due to an incredible drive by Marino Franchitti and teammates papa Clive Wheldon, me and my brother Mark, well, we ‘kept it in the family’. This year Big Machine is adding super-driver Tony Kanaan to the team and we expect to compete for two consecutive wins! With Tony pulling down his first win in Dan’s former Target #10 at season’s end, it would only be fitting for TK and Big Machine to cross the finish line first.”

Other pro drivers/sponsors participating in the event are James Hinchcliffe, Ed Carpenter/Machine of Awesome, Sage Karam/Comfort Revolution, Jack Harvey/AL Consulting, Sebastian Saavedra/Firestone, Conor Daly/IMS, Ryan Briscoe, Jay Howard/Bell Racing, Marco Andretti/Motorsport Graphic Design, Performance Tire Service and CF Charities.

Scott Dixon, Wheldon’s former teammate at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, will compete in the event for the second year in a row with Target. Dixon is one of IndyCars most successful drivers, including an Indianapolis 500 win and three IndyCar Championship titles.

“I’m proud to be a part of the second annual Dan Wheldon Memorial Pro-Am Karting Challenge,” said Dixon. “Last year’s race was a huge success, it was great to see so much support towards Dan’s lasting legacy. This year will be bigger and better as we continue to support the Alzheimer’s Association that Dan was very passionate about. Susie Wheldon does an amazing job, I hope you can come out and be part of a great day.”

Wheldon’s widow, Susie, created The Dan Wheldon Foundation following last year’s event as a way to keep her husband’s legacy alive and continue his work of giving back and support of the Alzheimer’s Association. Wheldon was killed during the Las Vegas IndyCar season finale in 2011.

“Dan was so giving of his time and resources,” said Wheldon. “I was completely blown away by the response last year and how much money we were able to raise and ultimately start a fund in Sue’s name. I knew I had to make this an annual event and maybe one day even have our boys Sebastian and Oliver participate. Dan will always be remembered as someone who had an immense passion for life and I want to carry on his legacy in the same way. I feel blessed to be able to give back.”

Wheldon’s 5-year-old son Sebastian started racing karts in April and will lead the field in a pace lap before the start of the race.

Each winning team member will receive a grand Turismo quartz chronograph watch from Ritmo Mundo, valued at $1200 and a room package complements of the Conrad Indianapolis.

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