Wheldon stay sharp with go-karts

Daytona Beach – It had the feel of an all-star motorsports event.

In the starting lineup was 2005 Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon, who was lined up behind former Coke Zero 400 winner Jamie McMurray.

Further down the starting grid was five-time Daytona 200 champion Scott Russell and Richard Petty Motorsports driver AJ Allmendinger. Five-time Rolex 24 winner Hurley Haywood was watching the action at the fence.

"This is a big race," said Wheldon, who started racing go-karts at the age of 4.

The four drivers competed in the World Karting Association's touch-and-go, or TAG, final on the sprint course inside Daytona International Speedway.

Daytona KartWeek, which includes sprint, road course and dirt racing, concludes today at the Speedway.

Wheldon, who got spun out in the TAG event featuring go-karts that can top 70 mph, has a win at Daytona.

He teamed with Scott Dixon and Casey Mears to win the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona for car owner Chip Ganassi.

"I've never raced karts at Daytona, but this place has special memories for me," Wheldon said. "I guess I've been fortunate to win a lot of big races and that was one of them. It was an achievement I was proud of."

Wheldon, who captured the 2005 IndyCar Series championship, has been go-kart racing like crazy this fall.

Since the Indy Racing League does not allow offseason testing, Wheldon says karting helps keep him sharp at the wheel.

"This is intense racing," he said. "It is very competitive. To some people in the outside world, when you think go-kart, you don't think of a high competition level. In some regards it's even more competitive here than the IndyCar Series."

Over the last several years, the IndyCar Series has had one engine supplier (Honda) and one chassis manufacturer (Dallara). It is just the opposite in big-league go-karting.

"There are a lot of manufacturers out there that produce good equipment," Wheldon said. "Because of that, that gives more opportunity for these young guys to run equipment that is the best out there or very close to the very best.

"You have to be on your toes and in the game the whole time." More at Daytona Beach News Journal

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