Dan Wheldon loved to return to his roots of racing — karting — and built it into his schedule. The RoboPong 200 Presented by Bridgestone and NOS Energy Drink had been circled on his October calendar since 2005 — the inaugural endurance karting race at New Castle (Ind.) Motorsports Park he won with roommate Mark Dismore Jr.
For the Oct. 23 event, facility owner and former IndyCar driver Mark Dismore announced that the winners’ trophy would be named the Dan Wheldon Cup. He just so happened to win it with 2011 Firestone Indy Lights champion Josef Newgarden of Tennessee by 26 seconds.
Newgarden, who like so many started racing in karts, is appreciative of the example Wheldon set on and off the racetrack.
“He set a great example for a lot of young guys coming up through the ranks, wanting to be professional race car drivers,” Newgarden said.
That, according to Dismore, set Wheldon apart.
“You just don’t see a lot of that, because a lot of the ‘big-time drivers’ don’t go back to their roots and Dan did and Dan loved it,” Dismore said.
IZOD IndyCar Series driver Ed Carpenter, the 2009 race winner with engineer Nathan O’Rourke, attended Wheldon’s funerel Oct. 22 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the public memorial service at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis following the karting race.
“I think being at the racetrack is the best thing,” Carpenter said.
IZOD IndyCar Series competitor Jay Howard, the 2006 Firestone Indy Lights champion and 2010 RoboPong 200 winner, also competed.