Follow the deadly March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that ravaged his homeland of Japan, Verizon IndyCar Series driver Takuma Sato created the “With You Japan” program to assist families affected by the disasters.
Sato’s efforts to help continued this past May during the Indianapolis 500. He raced in the event with a special edition helmet that was later signed by him and team owner A.J. Foyt, and then put into an online auction to raise money for “With You Japan.”
The helmet had pulled in $15,675 when bidding ended on June 9. But today, the Foyt camp announced that the helmet had raised $31,350, as the winning bid for the helmet has also been matched by an anonymous donor.
The winner of the helmet is described in the team’s release as a “longtime supporter of Sato who lives in Japan” that, like the donor, chooses to remain anonymous.
“I am very glad that I became the successful bidder for the auction of the Indy 500 Special Helmet,” said the winner. “I appreciate this helmet is a symbol of Takuma and his team’s wishes and challenging spirit. I am proud to own this helmet and will continue to support Takuma who keeps challenging even in difficult situations.”
Sato also thanked everyone for their support of the auction.
“It is great news that this auction raised a huge amount for “With you Japan,” he said. “A big congratulations to the successful bidder, and I really appreciate all donors who put in extra contributions.
“Japan is still struggling from the effects of the tsunami so with your help, we will continue to support children in a way to have some fun activities and encourage their dreams.”
And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.
After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.
In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.
Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.
“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.
“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.
“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”
Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.
“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”
Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.