Rahal helmet auction turns into industry-wide push to help Wheldon family

LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 14: Graham Rahal, driver of the #38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda sits in the pits during qualifing for the IZOD IndyCar World Series Championship on October 14, 2011 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Graham Rahal may be one of INDYCAR's younger drivers, but his maturity and leadership outweigh his years. The latest evidence of this is the fundraising auction he is helping put together for the family of the late Dan Wheldon, who lost his life at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.

The 22-year-old Ohio native, who drives the #38 Service Central Dallara for Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing, took the initiative via social media in the immediate aftermath of Wheldon's fatal accident to help organize the auction.

What was initially Rahal's plan to auction his Las Vegas-worn helmet has swelled into an industry-wide push to raise funds that is being supported by stars from all over motorsports, including Max Papis, Jimmie Johnson, Brandon Bernstein, as well as his fellow INDYCAR drivers Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, and Marco Andretti, RACER and AutoWeek magazines, and sponsors like GoDaddy.com and Bowers and Wilkins.

In fact, response has been so great that Rahal's initial plan to open the auction this week on danwheldonmemorial.com needs to be delayed for at least another week.

"There will be auction items for all incomes," Rahal said via his Twitter account Tuesday. "I also hope it will be open for bidding worldwide as there are worldwide items coming in!"

The list of auction items has expanded to include everything from driving school experiences to jerseys to race-worn equipment from an ever-growing list of contributors. Rahal's father Bobby, himself a former IndyCar star, is donating the last of his own race-worn helmets in his collection to the cause. Even fans are getting in on the action, offering up prized memorabilia from their own collections.

Due to the overwhelming response, Graham has asked that those interested in contributing or finding out more information visit his Facebook fan page to get the latest information. The auction will be held online at http://www.danwheldonmemorial.com.

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