Skip to content

Fans race (and try to wreck) Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson

Aug 7, 2014, 4:58 PM EST

Jeff Gordon made it look easy in winning Wednesday's charity go-kart race in Knoxville, Iowa. (Photo: Cyndee Bonkowski) Jeff Gordon made it look easy in winning Wednesday's charity go-kart race in Knoxville, Iowa. (Photo: Cyndee Bonkowski)

KNOXVILLE, Iowa — How many NASCAR fans have said to themselves or friends, “Man, if I only had the chance, I’d love to bang fenders with my favorite driver?”

Or, “Man, I’d love to take (fill in driver’s name) out in a race.”

Well, on Wednesday at Slideways Karting Center in Knoxville, Iowa, nearly 60 lucky fans had the chance to do one of the rarest things in pro sports: to race with their heroes, four of the biggest names in NASCAR.

Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson took on the lucky fans in the second annual Kick-It/Weld Racing Go-Kart Spectacular to benefit pediatric cancer.

“This is really going to change the lives for children out there with pediatric cancer, so thank you, thank you, thank you,” Gordon told the crowd of about 2,500 fans that turned out to watch. “When I looked at the parking lot today and saw the line of cars down the road, I knew it was going to be a good day.

“I don’t know of 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 together – or have as much fun.”

Each of the nearly 60 fans that raced paid at least $300 for the chance to do some rubbin’ and racin’ on the slippery oval, a track that was made even more slick with periodic rain sprinkles throughout the afternoon.

“We’re all passionate about this week, this event and we’re all passionate about Jeff’s efforts,” Stewart said. “We do it because of Jeff and because of the kids that he supports. That’s what racers do. It’s not about being a stock car driver. That’s the breed of drivers we are and the background we come from.”

There even was a special guest in the house, Gordon’s former crew chief and NASCAR team owner and broadcaster, Ray Evernham.

Evernham and the four drivers were all in town for the Daytona 500 of the sprint car world, the Knoxville Nationals, which began later Wednesday evening.

Before one of the heats, Evernham looked like he was trying to improve Gordon’s go-kart, prompting Tony Stewart to quip with a laugh, “No fair, no working on the car. You’re cheating just like you used to.”

“It’s great to see Jeff, Tony, Kasey and Kyle supporting what they’ve got going on out here,” Evernham said. “To me, (sprint car) is really grassroots racing. It’s where a lot of us grew up and it’s really neat to see a lot of people doing it and all the support that they have.”

When I asked Evernham why he wasn’t in the go-kart race, he replied with a laugh, “My problem is I’ve always been a much better mechanic than driver.”

The event raised nearly $25,000 for charity, including Jeff Gordon’s Children’s Foundation.

“Oh my gosh, it was so much fun,” Gordon said. “This place is so much fun to go out there in (simulated) sprint cars and slide ‘em around. A little bit of sprinkle making for a lot of fun conditions. And there’s some guys out there with some real skills. We all have big smiles on our face, having a lot of fun.”

“Those of us with Kick-It, for kids cancer, this is a real treat for us to be able to come here, be a part of this event, raise money for a great cause – pediatric cancer – have a go-kart event like this and to have the fans come out and support the way they did this year is amazing. It’s a huge crowd. When you get this kind of a driver lineup out here in Knoxville, the fans are going to come. I hope they enjoyed it, because we certainly did.”

Added Kahne, “It’s neat to see, all the money goes to a great cause, and we get to race a lot of people that are out here having fun like we are. It’s a cool, cool event.”

There were eight heat races leading up to the main event. The winners of each heat advanced to race all four pro drivers, who understood and took it good-naturedly that some of their fellow drivers were looking for bragging rights that they spun out a NASCAR star.

“It’s fun racing with the fans because this is like the biggest thing they’ve ever done, racing with us,” Larson said. “They take it really serious, you can see it on their faces. It makes it fun for us to see how focused they are. And when we beat them, they grip the steering wheel even harder.

“You can see it happen, too. You see them like focus on your rear bumper and just turn toward you. We understand it, though, and it’s funny.”

Not surprisingly, much like the way Sprint Cup drivers typically dominate when they race in the Nationwide Series, the Cup drivers were the stars in Wednesday’s main event.

Gordon won the race, Kahne was a close second, and Anthony Corini, a 20-year-old college student from Rockville, Md., was the top-finishing fan, taking home a trophy and the experience of a lifetime.

“That was pretty fun,” Corini said. “The rain made it real interesting. It was a lot of fun. I’ll never forget it. It was a great moment. There was a lot of money raised for a good cause.

“I did it last year, but I ran around the back in the main. I made it, but I didn’t do as well as I did this year. I finished behind Jeff and Kasey, but not too bad of company, I guess. I think I was flying under the radar.”

Stewart and Larson finished further back in the 12-driver pack.

“I think (sprint car driver) Brad Doty put it best when he said, ‘Think about what this means to people and being able to do this,'” Stewart said. “But at the same time, think about how much it means to us to be able to do it. It’s fun for us. Nobody’s out there trying to wreck you and put you in the wall. Everybody’s racing and having fun. It makes stuff like this a lot of fun.

“Look at everybody that’s out here, and in the rain, no less. That’s the kind of fans you see at sprint car races. Everybody’s having fun and enjoying it.”

As for a certain MotorSportsTalk writer who also competed in the event, well … let’s just say he finished and leave it at that.

And we won’t get into that he got spun twice by a certain NASCAR star whose last name rhymes with “pain,” or about the flat tire – his third in five days – said writer had on the way to Iowa.

But that’s another story for another time.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Latest Posts
  1. Honda’s IndyCar aero kit launch plan comes into focus

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:14 PM EST

    Honda Indy Toronto - Day 1 Getty Images

    Honda hints at more about its aero kits, while tossing out two dates of note.

  2. PWC: 2015 driver/team rundown, GTS

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    WC

    Look through the Pirelli World Challenge field continues with a look at GTS.

  3. F1 2015 team preview: Red Bull Racing

    Mar 4, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    Ricciardo Kvyat 43 Getty Images

    Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat look to lead the team in the post-Vettel era.

  4. Justin Wilson has first ride of 2015 confirmed, back with Shank at Sebring

    Mar 4, 2015, 12:40 PM EST

    GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma - Day 1 Getty Images

    Justin Wilson returns to Michael Shank Racing for Sebring one-off.

  5. Manor Marussia F1 confirms trip to Melbourne

    Mar 4, 2015, 12:09 PM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-RUS-PRACTICE Getty Images

    Manor Marussia F1 to make trip to Melbourne after all.

  6. Agag: Formula E off to “incredible start” heading into U.S. swing

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:15 AM EST

    Agag2 Getty Images

    FIA Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag outlines goals for upcoming two U.S. races, and recaps the first four thus far.

  7. Pirelli confirms tire choice for first four Grands Prix

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:51 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Germany - Previews Getty Images

    Soft and medium the main choice for Pirelli in three of first four Grands Prix.

  8. Marciello confirms FP1 outing for Sauber in Malaysia

    Mar 4, 2015, 8:14 AM EST

    MarcielloAD1 Getty Images

    Raffaele Marciello set for Malaysia FP1 appearance at Sauber.

  9. PWC: 2015 driver/team rundown, GT, GTA, GT Cup

    Mar 3, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    WC

    One to two sentence bullet point rundown on the PWC GT, GTA, GT Cup field heading into COTA and the 2015 season.

  10. Pippa Mann to serve as a Team Captain in Komen Central Indiana Race for the Cure

    Mar 3, 2015, 4:45 PM EST

    Photo: Susan G. Komen Central Indiana Affiliate Photo: Susan G. Komen Central Indiana Affiliate

    Pippa’s Pink Posse to feature prominently in Komen Race for the Cure, for Central Indiana Affiliate.

  11. F1 2015 team preview: Mercedes

    Mar 3, 2015, 4:00 PM EST

    F1 Testing In Jerez - Day One Getty Images

    It’s the race to repeat in 2015, but will it be Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg who takes the title?

  12. McLaren’s already difficult offseason unaided by its handling of Alonso story

    Mar 3, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    McLaren-Honda Announces New Driver Line-Up For 2015 Getty Images

    Fernando Alonso’s accident in testing has raised way more questions than answers.

  13. Florida Power & Light signs onto Miami ePrix; Brabham enjoys demo run (PHOTOS)

    Mar 3, 2015, 10:51 AM EST

    Milwaukee IndyFest - Day 1 Getty Images

    Formula E partners with FPL for Miami ePrix; Matty Brabham does the demo runs.

  14. Rolling Stone partners with Tequila Patron ESM for the 24 Hours of Le Mans

    Mar 3, 2015, 10:06 AM EST

    PatronD24 AP

    Tequila Patron ESM, Rolling Stone come together for one-off outing at 24 Hours of Le Mans.

  15. Susie Wolff will have at least two FP1 outings, Spain and Britain

    Mar 3, 2015, 9:53 AM EST

    Australian F1 Grand Prix - Practice Getty Images

    Susie Wolff confirmed for Spain, Silverstone FP1 outings and another day in Austria.

  16. Fernando Alonso ruled out of Australian Grand Prix

    Mar 3, 2015, 7:54 AM EST

    Fernando Alonso AP

    Alonso ruled out of season opener, following medical advice.

  17. Mercedes F1: Race to Repeat: Teaser clips and preview (VIDEO)

    Mar 2, 2015, 7:31 PM EST

    F1 Testing In Barcelona - Day Three Getty Images

    Mercedes F1: Road to Repeat premieres this Thursday, March 5, at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

  18. GP of NOLA weekend schedule announced

    Mar 2, 2015, 5:16 PM EST

    indynola

    Jam-packed schedule for inaugural GP of NOLA weekend.

  19. FIA WEC: Toyota Racing’s lead trio tackles Tokyo (VIDEO)

    Mar 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Bahrain Getty Images

    Toyota Racing’s trio of Davidson, Buemi and Nakajima tour Tokyo.