Photo courtesy Kart 4 Kids

All-stars, philanthropy unite with $81,000 raised in charity kart race

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PALMETTO, Fla. – It’s not often you get a glut of talent from the open-wheel and sports car racing worlds in one spot, and also take them back to their roots in go-karts.

Even better is when you take the talent assembled and have them all there for a good cause.

But that’s exactly what happened Wednesday night at Andersen RacePark for the sixth annual Kart 4 Kids Pro/Am Kart Race, which raised $81,000 for the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

At the event, a mix of items were auctioned off at both a live and silent auction, while the 14 pro drivers competed in a 75-lap kart race with each team featuring four amateur drivers alongside.

Pros in practice. Spencer Pigot leads Trent Hindman here. Photo: Tony DiZinno

This provided fans or observers who wanted to donate an opportunity to bid on such unique items as both Sebastien Bourdais ($4,300) and Patrick Long’s helmets ($5,200) which will be race worn this weekend, Scott Dixon’s Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT firesuit ($6,100) from a year ago, and also a two-day racing school at the Lucas Oil School of Racing.

One of the children at the hospital also hand designed a print for the event, signed by all pro drivers.

Long, Porsche’s lone American factory driver, had helped take the event from its origins to where it is now during its first five years.

But the opportunity for Bourdais to take on a greater role with the event’s growth this year allowed Long to step back from a full leadership position into a joint leadership one, and allow the Children’s Hospital to move to the front of the fore.

Having been at the event, seeing the smiles and excitement on the faces of those amateur drivers – myself included – was all the evidence needed to call the event a success. And the fundraising aspect brought the total amount raised to $281,000 over the six years.

Pros prepare for their final 10-lap stint. Photo: Tony DiZinno

The drivers were all game for the evening too. The mix of talent saw five full-time Verizon IndyCar Series drivers set to compete this weekend in Bourdais, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones, along with Pirelli World Challenge drivers Long and Nate Stacy.

The remaining pros all ran in the Rolex 24 at Daytona this year (Jordan and Ricky Taylor, Jan Heylen, RC Enerson, Daniel Morad, Trent Hindman and James French) or in other sports cars last year (Ethan Low, Glenn McGee). The Taylors, French, Bourdais and Morad all won their respective classes of Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona at this year’s Rolex 24.

Pigot’s team takes checkered flag. Photo: Tony DiZinno

Pigot’s team was particularly well stacked, with Bell Racing USA Director of Motorsports Chris Wheeler joined by three Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda active drivers in Team USA Scholarship winners Oliver Askew and Kyle Kirkwood and three-year USF2000 driver Luke Gabin. That team won the race by more than a lap, and from watching Jupiter, Fla. natives and longtime friends Askew and Kirkwood run together in practice, it was no surprise to see their excellence continue in the fun race.

As a media member in car, my teammates were Enerson, Thomas Nakagawa and son Colin, and Robert Keller on the teal team, number eight. Our team finished a little further down the order as we learned the intricacies of our kart; most of the competitors acknowledged some karts were a little bit better than others. The five of us though had a great time and the Nakagawas, in particular, were thrilled with the opportunity to run together as a pairing in this environment.

Seeing the interaction between the drivers who otherwise don’t get to see each other too often given their competing forms of motorsport was a fun part of the night. Ricky Taylor, for instance, was fresh off his Rolex 24 victory and his own first IndyCar test with Team Penske, whereas for Dixon and Kanaan, it was a chance to return to their roots more than two decades ago.

Then you have the up-and-coming drivers like Low, McGee, French, Askew, Kirkwood and Gabin who were all loving the opportunity to race against and learn from some of their racing heroes in the same equipment. Low, in particular, stood out as he battled Dixon late in the race.

Bourdais, in helmet, waits for his final stint. Photo: Tony DiZinno

A late change announced by Bourdais saw the pros’ required lap count drop from a minimum of 20 laps and maximum of 25 to a total of 15 only, the first five followed by the last 10. This allowed the amateurs to run the bulk of the race and get the most track time, though.

Ultimately though, this event is about the hospital, and the cause of raising money for children’s medical needs. This is the sole purpose of Kart 4 Kids, Inc., which is an all-volunteer organization where all money raised net of direct event expenses goes to directly to the St. Petersburg-based hospital.

This hospital, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is the only critical care children’s hospital on the West Coast of Florida. Included in their areas of expertise are extreme premature births, infant open-heart surgery, pediatric cancer, and children’s critical care and trauma.

Partners who helped the event included Tequila Patron, Cardio Access, Construction Services, Rally Stores and Alegra Motorsports, to name a few.

Bourdais joked during the live auction he hoped he’d win this weekend and thus make his Bell helmet even more valuable than it already was.

But he, Long and the hospital have already won with their charitable efforts and the continued growth of this pro-am kart event, which served as a great kickoff to the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend.

MRTI: Chris Griffis Test Sunday times and notebook

Thompson (90, Exclusive) and Hoogenboom (78, BN) in Pro Mazda. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.

Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.


INDY LIGHTS (Best Session)Full Results

Jamin. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

1. 5-Nico Jamin, Belardi Auto Racing, 1:15.7173 (Session 2)
2. 98-Colton Herta, Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, 1:15.7808 (Session 8)
3. 23-Victor Franzoni, Juncos Racing, 1:15.7953 (Session 8)
4. 3-Pato O’Ward, Team Pelfrey, 1:16.0900 (Session 5)
5. 4-Rinus Veekay, Belardi Auto Racing, 1:16.1419 (Session 5)
6. 31-Carlos Cunha, Juncos Racing, 1:16.1585 (Session 8)
7. 31-Nicolas Dapero, Juncos Racing, 1:16.2491 (Session 4)
8. 48-Ryan Norman, Andretti Autosport, 1:16.3285 (Session 4)
9. 27-Anthony Martin, Andretti Autosport, 1:16.5185 (Session 4)
10. 2-TJ Fischer, Team Pelfrey, 1:16.8124 (Session 5)
11. 21-Heamin Choi, Juncos Racing, 1:18.1931 (Session 5)

PRO MAZDA (Best Session); Full Results 

Askew. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

1. 8-Oliver Askew, Cape Motorsports, 1:19.8142 (Session 5)
2. 79-David Malukas, BN Racing, 1:19.9394 (Session 5)
3. 90-Parker Thompson, Exclusive Autosport, 1:19.9815 (Session 5)
4. 1-Carlos Cunha, Juncos Racing, 1:20.0236 (Session 2)
5. 3-Robert Megennis, Juncos Racing, 1:20.1268 (Session 4)
6. 81-Kaylen Frederick, Team Pelfrey, 1:20.1928 (Session 5)
7. 18-Calvin Ming, Pabst Racing, 1:20.2141 (Session 5)
8. 2-Sting Ray Robb, Juncos Racing, 1:20.6289 (Session 5)
9. 91-Nikita Lastochkin, Exclusive Autosport, 1:20.7001 (Session 2)
10. 80-Kris Wright, Team Pelfrey, 1:20.9930 (Session 4)
11. 82-Aaron Telitz, Team Pelfrey, 1:21.2144 (Session 8)
12. 78-Leonard Hoogenboom, BN Racing, 1:21.3713 (Session 8)

USF2000 (Best Session); Full Results

Keane ended head of queue in USF2000. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

1. 36-Darren Keane, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:25.1424 (Session 5)
2. 22-Andres Gutierrez, Pabst Racing, 1:25.5618 (Session 3)
3. 27-Callan O’Keefe, BN Racing, 1:25.6295 (Session 2)
4. 21-Hunter McElrea, Pabst Racing, 1:25.7021 (Session 5)
5. 31-Rasmus Lindh, Team BENIK, 1:25.7791 (Session 5)
6. 81-Jacob Loomis, Team Pelfrey, 1:25.8514 (Session 5)
7. 90-Parker Thompson, Exclusive Autosport, 1:25.8743 (Session 2)
8. 23-Lucas Kohl, Pabst Racing, 1:25.9792 (Session 6)
9. 37-David Osborne, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:25.9996 (Session 8)
10. 20-Aaron Telitz, RJB Motorsports, 1:26.0042 (Session 6)
11. 80-Michael D’Orlando, Team Pelfrey, 1:26.2295 (Session 8)
12. 37-Jake Craig, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:26.2452 (Session 4)
13. 25-Elliott Finlayson, BN Racing, 1:26.3668 (Session 8)
14. 32-Jaden Conwright, Team BENIK, 1:26.4557 (Session 2)
15. 38-Max Peichel, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:26.5058 (Session 2)
16. 33-Myles Rowe, John Cummiskey Racing, 1:26.6004 (Session 8)
17. 90-Justin Gordon, Exclusive Autosport, 1:26.6460 (Session 5)
18. 82-David Osborne, Team Pelfrey, 1:26.6824 (Session 2)
19. 34-Sabre Cook, John Cummiskey Racing, 1:26.9362 (Session 6)
20. 38-Oscar DeLuzuriaga, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:27.7455 (Session 8)
21. 92-Justin Gordon, Exclusive Autosport, 1:27.7750 (Session 3)
22. 24-Zoey Edenholm, BN Racing, 1:28.5449 (Session 8)
23. 93-Jayson Clunie, Exclusive Autosport, No Time


Old USF2000 teammates Jamin and Telitz share a high-five. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
  • There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
  • The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
  • Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
  • Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
  • Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
Veekay. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.

Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.