Rahal gesture aids auction to benefit Wheldon fund

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Graham Rahal has sparked an outpouring of support _ and memorabilia _ for an auction to benefit the family of late IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon.

Rahal offered to help the Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund by donating the helmet, gloves and shoes he used in Las Vegas, where Wheldon was killed Sunday in a fiery, 15-car accident. Rahal announced his plans on Twitter and it sparked interest from celebrities and athletes around the world.

Donations have included race-worn items from IndyCar drivers Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan, and NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch; an Indiana Pacers jersey signed by Larry Bird; memorabilia from seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong; and an NFL jersey signed by Roger Staubach, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Warren Moon and Harry Carson.

Items came in so fast Rahal had to enlist outside help with the auction.

It will now be run on eBay, which waived all fees, and Auction Cause, a Los Angeles-based auction management agency specializing in high profile corporate, celebrity, and nonprofit eBay auction events. It is expected to begin Monday, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Wheldon trust fund.

“I certainly appreciate everyone’s support for Dan’s memorial auction,” said Rahal. “I never thought when I tweeted about auctioning my helmet that we would get this kind of reaction.”

Johnson said he first saw it on Twitter and immediately agreed to give the helmet he’ll use this weekend at Talladega.

“I saw something on there where his father was giving up a race-worn helmet and if I remember reading it right, it was one of a kind,” said Johnson. “My helmets, I don’t do anything with them and I keep them myself. I do trade out with some other drivers from time to time, but helmets are so sought after and can raise the most money, so when I saw that Bobby Rahal was giving up a helmet it just triggered something in me.”

Like most others, Johnson has watched from afar with amazement as Rahal has tweeted about who has donated, and he’s posted photos of items as they’ve arrived.

“Extremely impressed with the outpouring,” Johnson said. “Just really proud of everybody doing their part in trying to help provide for the family and keeping the family in their thoughts and prayers.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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