Wheldon memorial race raises $100,000 for Alzheimer’s Association


A wild final lap marked the end of today’s Dan Wheldon Memorial Pro-Am Karting Challenge at New Castle (Ind.) Motorsports Park, which raised $100,000 from its sponsors and participants for The Alzheimer’s Association.

Shortly after the white flag, three of the leading karts in the race made contact with two of them going off-course. The incident enabled both sports car ace Marino Franchitti (subbing for his injured brother, Dario) and IndyCar veteran Ed Carpenter to sneak by for the win.

Franchitti actually crossed the line first, but race officials initially ruled that he had short-cut the course on the final lap. When they realized they were in the wrong about the decision, officials then declared victory for both Franchitti’s Big Machine Records team (co-drivers Scott Borchetta, Mark Borchetta, and Clive Wheldon, Dan’s father) and Carpenter’s Machine of Awesome team (co-drivers Taylor Kiel, Blair Julian, and Adam Rovazzini).

It should be noted that during the 100-minute charity event, teams could buy their way back onto the lead lap with a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association, which added more confusion regarding the finish. But no matter.

In the end, it was all about racing for a great cause that was close to the heart of the late Wheldon, whose mother was diagnosed with the disease in 2008.

“Overall, I’m so happy and just feel blessed to be part of this and carry on Dan’s legacy in so many ways – not only his passion for racing, but also to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s,” said Wheldon’s widow, Susie, who organized the special race.

“It was just great racing all days and a great way to celebrate Dan and his life,” said Marino Franchitti. “I just wish he were here racing with us because he would have been kicking all of our arses.”

Second place went to the American Honda kart of IndyCar pilot Josef Newgarden, Indianapolis TV news personality Dave Furst, Honda public relations man Dan Layton, and 16-year-old competitor Chase Jones.

Rounding out the podium was the SG Football Helmets/AL Consulting kart of IndyCar rookie of the year Tristan Vautier, ex-IndyCar driver P.J. Chesson, Anton Julian and Mark Dismore, Jr.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
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Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.