What happens when you put eight professional race car drivers and a bunch of competitive media members on one karting track? Apparently a lot of trash talking and a few racing moves that wouldn’t necessarily be considered ‘legal’ at the race that the gathering was celebrating, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
On Feb. 27, James Jakes, Justin Wilson, Alex Tagliani and Jack Hawksworth joined drivers from USF2000 and Pirelli World Challenge for a media karting event at Andersen RacePark in Bradenton, Fla. The annual event heralded the season-opening race just up the highway in St. Petersburg by gathering media attending the race with some of its stars, but the similarities stopped there. After several protests and unplanned pit stops, Belardi Auto Racing’s Danilo Estrela led his team to the victory, with Hawksworth’s team finishing second and Tagliani’s in third.
To begin the event, representatives from the Grand Prix welcomed Charlie Lemon, a young war hero from Afghanistan that lost both of his legs during his tour. Lemon, an INDYCAR fan who has attended a race in Sonoma previously, was given the first two tickets to the event through a new program established by Wish For Our Heroes (W4OH) and the Honda Grand Prix that will send thousands of troops to the race.
As Tagliani listened to Lemon relaying his story to the crowd, he asked to say a few words on behalf of the IZOD IndyCar Series. What no one expected was that he wanted to make an on-the-spot offer to Lemon and W4OH – provide him with the foundation’s sticker to place on his helmet, and following the race he will auction it off with all proceeds going to W4OH. The gracious solider accepted the offer, setting a great tone to the start of the media event before anyone stepped in a kart.