The Associated Press
Graham Rahal has sparked an outpouring of support — and memorabilia — for an auction to benefit the family of late IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon.
Rahal offered to help the Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund by donating the helmet, gloves and shoes he used in Las Vegas, where Wheldon was killed Sunday in a fiery, 15-car accident. Rahal announced his plans on Twitter and it sparked interest from celebrities and athletes around the world.
Donations have included race-worn items from IndyCar drivers Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan, and NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch; an Indiana Pacers jersey signed by Larry Bird; memorabilia from seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong; and an NFL jersey signed by Roger Staubach, SteveYoung, Jerry Rice, Warren Moon and Harry Carson.
The Indianapolis Colts have also signed a #77 Dan Wheldon jersey.
Items came in so fast Rahal had to enlist outside help with the auction.
It will now be run on eBay, which waived all fees, and Auction Cause, a Los Angeles-based auction management agency specializing in high profile corporate, celebrity, and
nonprofit eBay auction events. It is expected to begin Monday, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Wheldon trust fund.
“I certainly appreciate everyone’s support for Dan’s memorial auction,” said Rahal. “I never thought when I tweeted about auctioning my helmet that we would get this kind of reaction.”
Johnson said he first saw it on Twitter and immediately agreed to give the helmet
he’ll use this weekend at Talladega.
“I saw something on there where his father was giving up a race-worn helmet and if I remember reading it right, it was one of a kind,” said Johnson. “My helmets, I don’t do anything with them and I keep them myself. I do trade out with some other drivers from time to time, but helmets are so sought after and can raise the most money, so when I saw that Bobby Rahal was giving up a helmet it just triggered something in me.”
Like most others, Johnson has watched from afar with amazement as Rahal has tweeted about who has donated, and he’s posted photos of items as they’ve arrived.
“Extremely impressed with the outpouring,” Johnson said. “Just really proud of everybody doing their part in trying to help provide for the family and keeping the family in their thoughts and prayers.”
Funeral services for Wheldon will be Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla., at 10 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church.
“Though we won’t be able to fit everyone inside, I know that Dan would have wanted the community to share in the celebration of his life and to grieve his passing,” Susie Wheldon said.
NASCAR drivers will honor Wheldon with a special decal at this weekend’s race in Talladega, Ala.
IndyCar officials are holding a public memorial service Sunday afternoon at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indy. The Indy memorial service will open its doors to the public at 2:30 p.m., 90 minutes before the service is scheduled to start.
A trust fund for Wheldon’s family has been established. Donations can be sent to Fifth Third Private Bank, attention Dan Wheldon Family Trust, 251 North Illinois St., Suite 1000, Indianapolis, IN 46204. Those wishing to send their condolences to the Wheldon family can address letters to The Wheldons, 9600 Koger Blvd N, Ste. 105, St Petersburg, FL 33702.
Meanwhile, IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard has called a non-mandatory driver meeting for Monday in Indianapolis to discuss Wheldon’s fatal accident.
To find the auction on the web: http://www.danwheldonmemorial.com