Gordon, Larson Race for a Good Cause
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin on August 7, 2013 | 7:33 P.M. EST
Gordon and Larson with the Tony Stewart Spectacular kart race trophy. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
KNOXVILLE, Iowa - Jeff Gordon and Kyle Larson helped raise money for Kick-It, a program of the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, on Wednesday with a go-kart event at Slideways Karting Center.
The inaugural Weld Racing’s Tony Stewart Spectacular kart race saw fans, drivers and media members (68 total) donate to the Kick-It program, and get the chance to race against Gordon and Larson. Stewart was scheduled to race in the event but due to the injuries he suffered in a sprint car crash Monday night, Larson - this year's NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year contender - filled in.
Seven heat races were held with Gordon and Larson driving in all of them. In the end, Larson took the Feature win over Gordon. He was presented with a trophy that will have his name etched into it and be displayed in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in Knoxville. The top two finishers in each heat race transferred to the A-Main and also will form an all-fan kickball team for Friday's Tony Stewart Kick-It Cup game.
"I've been coming here since I was 11 or 12, so it's cool that they put on a big charity event like this," Larson said. "The race was a lot of fun. We had to start at the back for every race and there was lots of crashing. A great turnout for a great cause. Jeff and Tony both do a lot for charities."
Between the karting event and the kickball game, the program has already raised over $49,000 for pediatric cancer research. More will be added to the total on Friday where an auction will be held featuring racing items from drivers from the Knoxville Nationals and NASCAR.
"I've got to thank Tony Stewart," Gordon said. "I know he's not here and we're all bummed about what happened. He was instrumental in this whole program. Kendra Jacobs (co-host of Motor Racing Network's "Winged Nation") ... I also have to say 'Thank you' to her for the whole kickball tournament happening here in Knoxville and growing the way that has. We're very happy with the results we've seen already this year and the event hasn’t even happened yet."
In 2012, the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation partnered with Kick-It to host games across the country, including a number of World of Outlaws STP Series events like the Knoxville Nationals and the Gold Cup in Chico, Calif. The program was such a huge success last season and it began 2013 by raising $57,000 with a game in Warrnambool, Australia.
Gordon’s trip to Knoxville was his second consecutive. Last year, the Sprint Car Hall of Fame had a tribute exhibit to Gordon that featured some of his old sprint cars and stock cars.
"After last year, I had so much fun I said, 'Alright, I'm going back but I'm not just going to go there, watch the races and take off,' " Gordon said. "We get to be here and be a part of this go-kart event, spend the whole night (at the track), hang out with some of the guys in the pits and then have a nice easy trip to Watkins Glen - hopefully."
Along with enjoying the racing Wednesday night at the 53rd Annual Knoxville Nationals, Gordon will also be keeping his eye on Shane Stewart, who will drive the Kick-It-sponsored sprint car.
Gordon raced in the Knoxville Nationals in 1989 and finished 23rd driving the No. 23 entry for McBride and Shoff Motorsports. Larson will be racing in the Nationals before going back and forth to Watkins Glen for Saturday's Nationwide Series race.