Belle Isle (June 1, 2013) -- Events surrounding this weekend's races have spilled from the island into Metro Detroit.
At a unique charity fundraiser at Kart2Kart, an indoor go-kart track in Sterling Heights, a dozen professional sports car racers mingled and amicably shared stories about their fast-paced lives.
And they let all comers race against them — including me.
Racing4Research hosts similar functions nationwide to raise funds and awareness for the fight against Neurofibromatosis, a painful disorder that can lead to blindness, bone abnormalities and cancer.
The event is going to be a must for race fans next year. Access to the drivers was incredible. They were friendly and engaging and genuinely happy to share the fun they were enjoying. They took children afflicted by the condition on rides around the track in Kart2Kart's two-person go-karts.
Patrick Long, who drove Roger Penske's American Le Mans Series Porsche RS Spyder prototype racers in 2008, will be wheeling the No. 73 Porsche GT3 in Saturday and Sunday's Pirelli World Challenge Series races ahead of the IndyCar events. Long talked about his plans to race in the 90th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a teammate of Patrick Dempsey.
Dempsey is better known as Dr. Dreamy from the television drama "Grey's Anatomy," but he is also an accomplished sports car racer. Long has competed at Le Mans 10 times and taken class victories twice.
Lindsay Styke, 26, of Waterford, has Neurofibromatosis and is aided by two titanium rods implanted along her spine. But she also raced go-karts against the professionals.
"I never let it hold me back," said the automotive class teaching assistant at Waterford Mott High School.
My night behind the wheel was a fantasy camp special. I qualified for the pole position for the final event, thanks to an inverted start with the fastest drivers starting at the rear. I held my kart as close to the middle of the fastest racing line as possible, hoping to make it hard for all those fast drivers to find alternative lanes to pass me. It worked for several laps, until Long's Porsche teammate Jason Hart flew past. Next came Long and then Al Carter, a BMW driver in a series that won't compete this weekend in Detroit.
What I didn't know was what had been happening behind me — that Long had deliberately kept a local hotshot bottled up in traffic for several laps. Jonathon Horgas, 23, of South Lyon, drives open-wheel formula cars in amateur competition. He's also a regular at Kart2Kart. His initials, JEH, are at the top of the track's current speed and performance indexes.
At the end, Horgas was on my tail. He made a bonsai attempt to pass on the final lap. We clanged together in a turn and I managed to keep my kart straight enough to pull ahead. After the checkered flag dropped, Horgas pulled alongside and we bumped fists.
As fundraisers go, this one was more exciting than a walkathon.
From The Detroit News