By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
(May 11, 2011)
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—There were plenty of poignant moments at Wednesday's press conference in the lobby of Levine Children's Hospital, where Tony Stewart announced plans for this year's Prelude to the Dream dirt Late Model charity race at Eldora Speedway.
Foremost was the delighted surprise on team owner Rick Hendrick's face when Stewart announced a $50,000 gift in Hendrick's honor for Levine's sixth-floor pediatric intensive care unit named for his son, Ricky Hendrick, who died in a private plane crash en route to Martinsville Speedway in Oct. 2004.
That gift kicked off the announcement of the format of this year's race, which is scheduled for June 8 at the Ohio track Stewart bought seven years ago. Twenty-eight world-class drivers from a variety of motorsports disciplines have been assigned to four teams competing for four medical facilities that serve the needs of children in four different markets.
"Over the last six years, we've been able to raise $3 million for different charities across the country," Stewart said. "This just started out as … I think the first year we had 17 drivers that came, and now we're up to 25 (actually 28 this year, including Stewart) a year, and there's a waiting list of drivers actually waiting to come to the event, which I'm very honored to have. These drivers are what make it happen."
HBO Pay-Per-View will televise the Prelude, which will start at 8 p.m. June 8, with an immediate replay to follow. The cost of the telecast is $24.95, with the proceeds supporting all four of the designated charities.
In an event with plenty of star power, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Bill Elliott, David Reutimann, Austin Dillon, Ray Evernham and drag racer Cruz Pedregon will represent Levine Children's Hospital; Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Ken Schrader, David Gilliland and drag racer Ron Capps will compete for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Justin Allgaier, Kenny Wallace, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Ricky Carmichael will drive for St. Louis Children's Hospital; and Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Brian Vickers, Marcos Ambrose, Aric Almirola and Dave Blaney will represent Children's Medical Center of Dallas.
Stewart expects a yet-to-be-named IndyCar driver to fill out his team.