A growing tradition continues next week in St. Petersburg as almost half of the NTT IndyCar Series field will come together and start the season by donating their time and racing memorabilia to benefit a local children’s hospital.
The Kart4Kids event, held Wednesday, March 6, on the Firestone Grand Prix circuit, has become a passion project for many friends of the late IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, who was a generous donor to the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Pete.
Local resident and defending race winner Sebastien Bourdais and American Porsche factory sports car driver Patrick Long spearhead the event, which features a one-hour kart race in which amateurs can donate to create a kart team where they have IndyCar and sports car pros as teammates. A secondary fundraising element involves online bidding to buy driver’s helmets, racing suits, and other memorabilia that benefits the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
Having raised $130,000 at the 2018 Kart4Kids event, Bourdais is hoping to reach higher with next week’s charity gathering.
“It raised $130,000 last year and really got the IndyCar community involved, along with big help from Firestone, and [grand prix organizers] Savoree Green Promotions, and all our sponsors,” the back-to-back St. Pete winner told RACER. “Moving it to the track, at the Turn 1 pit exit area, has been a big boost, and it’s raising awareness for what we’re doing.”
Among the drivers in attendance, many of whom will take part on the pro-am karting race, Bourdais and Dale Coyne Racing teammate Santino Ferrucci, defending IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and his teammate Felix Rosenqvist from Chip Ganassi Racing, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport’s James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach, DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanley, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, Harding Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta, and his former teammate Patricio O’Ward will be present.
Patrick Long, Spencer Pumpelley, and other sports car drivers from the Blancpain GT World Challenge America paddock, along with young drivers from the Road To Indy series, will round out the guest list.
“The format is a pro-am kart race with the pro starting, the amateurs in the middle stints, and a pro finishing,” Bourdais added. “We still have a few teams available for those who want to come race with us. And then we have the auction at the event where we have helmets, firesuits, and other cool stuff that can be had. They’re also available with online bidding.
“Some drivers who can’t be there next week because of a conflict have been very generous to send a helmet or something that will raise money for the kid’s hospital. It’s a heartwarming thing to see our community start the season by doing something charitable like this, so I hope people can come out and support it.”