Danica Patrick’s ride in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race will honor the late Dan Wheldon, who was killed in an IndyCar crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last month. And a celebrity auction on Ebay is racking up tens of thousands of dollars to benefit Wheldon’s children.
Patrick’s car will feature Wheldon’s famous Lionheart logo on the hood and promote the racer’s memorial website. In place of her famous American flag-themed helmet, Patrick will wear a special tribute helmet that will be auctioned off. At the time of his death, Wheldon was slated to replace Patrick at Andretti Autosport in 2012, as Patrick begins her fulltime NASCAR career.
The auction benefiting the trust set up for Wheldon’s two-year-old son Sebastian and infant son Oliver began with a simple, loving gesture by fellow IndyCar racer Graham Rahal. Almost immediately after Rahal announced he would auction off his Las Vegas finale helmet to help raise money for Wheldon’s young sons, offers from other celebrity athletes came flooding in. Eleven-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater offered a surfboard. Lance Armstrong pledged a Tour de France Jersey. Rahal’s phone rang off the hook.
Rahal enlisted help from GoDaddy.com and got connected with eBay, which waived all fees. Los Angeles-based Auction Cause stepped up to manage the auction. And a Twitter account, @DWheldonAuction, landed more than 4,000 followers within 20 minutes of its launch, growing to nearly 13,000 at press time.
Thus far, the auction has raised nearly $220,000.
“I thought we would have a lot of support and a pretty good turnout of people saying ‘We’ll give this’ or ‘We’ll give that,’ but for it to get as large as it has—nobody ever expected this,” Rahal told reporters Wednesday. “It’s been pretty cool. I think it shows how tight-knit the sports community is overall. It isn’t just racing.”
E3 Spark Plugs sends continued thoughts to the Wheldon family and kudos to the racing pros and fans helping them through a heartbreaking time. And we encourage you to visit the auction site and bid high!