March 25, 2014 — via Arni Sribhen, IndyCar PR — INDYCAR photo — PALMETTO, Fla. – Sebastian Wheldon has only been karting since October, but he already has his eyes on the racing in the “Indy 900,” and the confidence and swagger of a much more experience driver.
So after watching Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy drivers compete in a media karting event to kick off the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 19, Sebastian, the 5-year-old son of the late Dan Wheldon, walked up to Marco Andretti with only thing on his mind.
“Marco, wanna race?”
Andretti, the third-generation Verizon IndyCar Series driver, quickly agreed and the two headed out on Andersen RacePark’s track. They were soon joined by St. Petersburg resident and four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud. Then Mikhail Aleshin, Tristan Vautier and Gabby Chaves joined, and a four-lap mini race was on.
In the end, Sebastian was the first driver to see the checkered flag, emulating the feat his father accomplished in 2005. And got a trophy for his efforts.
“It looks just like the first trophy I ever got,” Pagenaud said.
Sebastian attended the event with his mother, Susie Wheldon, and younger brother Oliver, who was celebrating his third birthday. Sebastian, who regularly practices at the kart track near the family home in St. Petersburg, served as the pace kart driver, leading the field for two slower paced laps. But he’ll soon make his race debut with the Top Kart team in South Carolina.
“It’s something he talked about doing for a while,” Susie Wheldon said. “He got the chance last October, and now, he loves it. He’s always asking me what days are going to be the karting days.”
As for his competitors, Sebastian drew rave reviews from the Verizon IndyCar Series stars.
“Five years old and he’s already diving for apexes (of corners),” said Andretti, who gave his third-place trophy to Sebastian. “It’s unbelievable. He had field of INDYCAR drivers behind him and bumping him and he never flinched. He’s the real deal.”
Added Bourdais, who used the opportunity to let his son Alex sit in Sebastien’s kid-sized kart to see if he’d fit in one.
“It’s great to see Sebastian driving his kart and having a ball. All the drivers are out there messing with each other and just having a good time. It was cool to go out with the kid and have a fun race.”