Special Go-Kart Win for Gordon
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on August 6, 2014 | 7:00 P.M. EST
Jeff Gordon with Shawn Benson in Victory Lane with the Weld Racing Go-Kart Spectacular trophy. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
KNOXVILLE, Iowa - Jeff Gordon won the second annual Weld Racing Go-Kart Spectacular on Wednesday, but the real winners were the kids.
Gordon returned to Slideways Karting Center in Knoxville, Iowa, for the second consecutive year to help raise money for pediatric cancer research through the Kick-It program. He was joined by Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson for the event that saw the NASCAR Sprint Cup stars race against fans that donated to enter one of eight heat races.
Although he has 90 career wins in the Sprint Cup Series, this trip to Victory Lane for Gordon was a special one as he was greeted by 13-year-old Shawn Benson, who recently completed treatment for brain cancer.
"Everybody - by being here and being a part of this event - is really going to change the lives of children with pediatric cancers," Gordon said. "I can’t thank everyone enough."
A huge crowd was in attendance for the race and despite a threatening weather forecast, it went off without delay.
"When I came into the parking lot today and saw the line of cars down the road, I knew it was going to be a good day," Gordon said. "This is amazing. I don’t know anywhere in the world where you're going to go to a go-kart track and see Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson and myself ... or have as much fun as I just did. Let's go to Knoxville!"
Gordon plans on staying in Knoxville for the opening night of the 54th FVP Knoxville Nationals, pending weather, before making a stop in Minneapolis on his way to Watkins Glen International for Sunday's Cup race.
"I look forward to coming every year," Gordon said, "whether it’s coming here and sliding around in these go-karts or hanging out with my buddies that are racing every weekend in a different environment. Most of all, I’m just happy to have a Kick-It car out there with Shane Stewart and have so much support for pediatric cancer research in this community. It gives me a great reason to be here and enjoy Knoxville."
Between the karting event and Friday's kickball game, the program has already raised over $43,000 for pediatric cancer research. More will be added to the total on Friday, when an auction will be held featuring racing items from drivers in the Knoxville Nationals and NASCAR. After the race, two impromptu donations were made of $500 each – one for the hat Kahne was wearing and one for a photo with Stewart.
"It's neat to see all the money go to a great cause," Kahne said. "We get to race a lot of people that are out here just having fun like we are."
Larson, who subbed for Tony Stewart last year after Stewart was injured in a sprint car race earlier that week, was surprised with the opportunity to compete against his mom, Janet, in one of the heat races.
"I didn't know until I got here," Larson said. "Jeff was like, 'You know you're racing your mom?' I said, 'Cool! I can't wait.' She's not a good driver, so that was funny."
Larson and Kahne will fly together to Watkins Glen after tomorrow night's Knoxville Nationals action.
Anthony Corini was the highest-finishing non-Cup driver Wednesday, in third place. Corini, 20, has traveled from Maryland to Knoxville the past 10 years to attend the Knoxville Nationals.
"A third-place run, not too bad running against Kasey and Jeff," Corini said. "It was a lot of fun. This is a great event. Kendra Jacobs has done a great job with it. A lot of money was raised for a good cause."
As for Corini’s favorite driver ...
"Anyone from the 'Pennsylvania Posse.' "
Photos: Jeff Wackerlin