Justin from Viny, Alberta moved his motorized wheelchair up to the IZOD IndyCar Series show car, looked in and surprised Will Power and Anders Krohn with his knowledge of their sport.
“I know drivers have spotters on ovals, but not on road courses,” he offered in a fact not known to casual fans. He then talked about IndyCar vs NASCAR and his favorite racers. ”Wow!” said an amazed and engaged Power, who drives the #12 Verizon car for Team Penske. “This kid loves racing.”
Thursday afternoon, Power and Krohn, who drives the #9 Liberty Engineering car for Belardi Auto Racing in the Firestone Indy Lights Series, made a 70-minute Racing For Kids® pit stop at Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s Hospital.
A non-stop parade of about 90 youngsters in hospital gowns, pajamas, tutus and jeans (and their siblings) hurried outside of the hospital to meet the two drivers, talk a little racing, collect autographs and pose for pictures.
Power will race Sunday in the Edmonton Indy, a race he won in 2009, and has been on the pole for three of the last four races. Krohn will do double duty in two Firestone Indy Lights races on Saturday and Sunday, all taking place on the former City Centre Airport road course.
A special buzz enveloped the event under a comfortable Edmonton sun as CBC and CTV cameramen moved through the crowd recording the event for telecast on Thursday night. Also covering the event was local radio station 630 CHAD Radio.
For many, it was their first chance to meet big time racers who obliged every request. Krohn even signed an artificial leg for an excited Edmonton man who happened upon the event.
Like every race, there was a near incident. “You don’t want to be the first crash of the weekend” one adult observer offered, as young Kayla quickly maneuvered her wheelchair from harms way as the show car was moved off the street to a position on the sidewalk in front of the hospital.
Tyson of Barhead, Alberta, sporting a large cast on his left arm, reveled in having his picture taken with Power and Krohn; and so did his parents. A younger Tyson from Edmonton took some coaxing before deciding to sit on the top of the show car rear wing for his invaluable photo opportunity.
And little Piper’s winning smile softened the heart of every person in view.
Everyone in attendance from the racing community chipped in with help. Merrill Cain, PR Director of Penske Racing, handed out the colorful Racing For Kids hats to the youngsters, while Debby Wright, Racing For Kids® Event Manager, took photos for her web site postings later this weekend.
As the crowd diminished, both drivers hustled from the hospital back to the track for race preparations, warmed by the knowledge that they brightened the day for a happy bunch of youngsters, their brothers, sisters and parents.
Power was speaking for Krohn as well as himself when he said: ”These kids spend a lot of time in the hospital. We are fortunate to be healthy, and happy to be here.”