Knoxville — NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon was in Knoxville on Wednesday for the first night of the Nationals, but before that, he took part in a charity event to raise money to fight children's cancer.
Gordon's children's foundation partnered with Kick-It on the event, in which go-kart drivers donated $200 each to participate in a race around Slideways with Gordon, and fellow driver Kyle Larson. The event was planned by Tony Stewart, who was injured late Monday night in Oskaloosa and could not participate.
Gordon thanked Stewart for organizing the event. He was happy and elated with the results of the fund raiser. Prior to Gordon's arrival, Slideways co-owner Nate Van Haaften estimated that the event raised over $13,000 for the charity. Final figures were unavailable before our deadline. Van Haaften said some may have been disappointed that Stewart could not participate, but there was still a strong crowd for the event. The number of drivers registered to compete soared past the 50 scheduled for participation.
Gordon said the racing community, especially the Sprint Car community, is known for having big hearts. For him as a driver, it is important to give back when he can. When asked about Stewart's accident, Gordon said you have to live your life.
“I doubt this will really change anything for (Stewart),” Gordon said. “He's a true racer. He's out there doing what he loves.”
Coming back to Knoxville was an easy decision for Gordon. He remembers reaching the Nationals around 1989-90, but remembers that he did not do well in them. Nevertheless, reaching the Nationals was a career highlight for him. His appreciation for Sprint Cars, and Knoxville, remains strong.
“I want to spend some time (in Knoxville),” Gordon said. He remembers the fun he had, watching the 360 Nationals last year.
A kickball game was scheduled for Friday, Aug. 9, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Young's Park. Four kickball teams made of sprint car drivers, their wives and girlfriends, and the 10 go-karting qualifers will compete for Tony Stewart's Kick-It Cup trophy. Live and silent auction featuring once-in-a-lifetime items. For more information on Kick-It, visit www.kick-it.org.