* John Alexander drives the Sigma Chi cart to victory in the second annual Purdue University Grand Prix on May 16, 1959. (1:26)
* Purdue Grand Prix

April 4, 2007

Purdue's 50th Grand Prix race revved up for April 21

David Wolf
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Purdue University's annual Grand Prix kart race will mark its 50th year with events that will reunite alumni racers of the past, leading up to the main race event on April 21 on the track north of Ross-Ade Stadium.Thirty-three Purdue student kart drivers will vie for the trophy in what has been called the "Greatest Spectacle in College Racing." This year two alumni races will precede the main race, which will begin at 2:45 p.m.

The event's grand marshal is David Wolf, a NASA astronaut and a 1978 Purdue graduate. Wolf received a bachelor's degree from Purdue in electrical engineering and a medical degree from Indiana University in 1982.

Wolf joined the medical sciences division of the Johnson Space Center in Houston in 1983 and was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1990. He became eligible for space flight in 1991 and has since logged 158 days in space over three separate missions, including an extended stay on the Russian Mir space station. He also has conducted four spacewalks.

2006 Grand Prix
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He currently is chief of the extravehicular activity branch of the astronaut office at Johnson Space Center. His team is responsible for developing, testing, training and conducting spacewalks for the International Space Station. Wolf also is one of the astronauts involved in engineering and operations development for a return to the moon and for Mars expedition programs.

"We are especially honored to have an alumnus of such distinction as David Wolf as our grand marshal this year," said Brad Nicholson, president of the Grand Prix Foundation. "Dr. Wolf is a well-known and accomplished astronaut who is a great example of the success that a Purdue degree can bring.

"His presence, along with the many participants from years past who will be taking part in the festivities, will make this 50th anniversary celebration of the Grand Prix an especially memorable and special experience."

Qualifications will be at 11 a.m. April 14, and at 5 p.m. April 16-17. The fastest driver on the first day of qualifications will earn the pole position, and qualifications will determine 27 of the 33 starting positions. The final six spots on the starting grid will go to the top two finishers in each of three sprint races on race day.

1958 Grand Prix
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The main race event starts at 2:45 p.m. April 21, with driver introductions and the national anthem. Pits are open to the public from 8:30-9 a.m., and the track is open to the public at 9 a.m. Practice is from 9:40-10:50 a.m., and sprint races start at 11:10 a.m.

Tickets are $7 in advance or $10 at the gate. Programs are $3, and the official Grand Prix T-shirt is $10.

Advance tickets will be on sale during Spring Fest from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 14-15 at the Dick and Sandy Dauch Alumni Center and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 16-20 at the Class of 1950 Lecture Hall. The rain locations for ticket sales are in front of the Humanities, Social Science and Education Library on April 16, 17, 18 and 20 and in the basement of the Purdue Memorial Union in front of former Villa Pizza on April 19.

Advance tickets also can be purchased by sending a check payable to Grand Prix Foundation to the following address: Purdue Grand Prix Foundation, Attn: Tickets - Katie Oates, Stewart Center, Box 502, West Lafayette, IN 47906.

All presale ticket orders must be received by April 13. A full name, e-mail address and a phone number also should be included with the ticket order. An e-mail confirmation will be sent upon receipt of presale ticket orders. Tickets can be claimed at the ticket booths during Grand Prix Day on April 20 or on race day, and an ID will be required to claim tickets. Questions regarding ticket sales should be directed to Katie Oates, director sales, at

Inaugural Purdue Grand
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Before the main race, there will be two alumni races. Alumni races are held every five years.

The first race will be at 12:40 p.m. for drivers of the first 25 years (1958-1982) and will be 10-15 laps long. The second race will be at 1 p.m. for drivers who raced from 1983-2002 and will be 25 laps.

On April 20 the Grand Prix Foundation will hold a golf outing at 10 a.m. at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex on the Ackerman Hills Course. Registration is $50 per single golfer or $200 per foursome. More information and registration forms can be found online at

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 20, alumni racers will have the opportunity to display their karts during Grand Prix Day on the Memorial Mall. Grand Prix corporate sponsors, other race teams, student organizations and a local radio station will be present during the event. Information booths from various groups and organizations also will be featured.

After the race on April 21, Grand Prix alumni, university administrators, Grand Prix Foundation members, race teams, Grand Prix sponsors and other guests will gather for the invitation-only Grand Prix 50th Anniversary Gala in the North and South Ballrooms of the Purdue Memorial Union.

A reception will begin at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Purdue President Martin C. Jischke is scheduled to speak, along with Kirk Cerny, president of the Purdue Alumni Association. The foundation also will recognize benefactors, past grand marshals, past race winners, former Grand Prix Foundation presidents and founders of the Grand Prix race.

The Grand Prix Student Ambassadors will promote other events before the main race on April 21. They are Kaleigh Evans, a junior studying neurobiology from Newburgh, Ind., and Jill Steiner, a sophomore studying agricultural economics and communications from Berne, Ind. Ambassadors serve as spokespeople for the Grand Prix Foundation, encouraging race support and business sponsorship and also perform various other duties alongside the Senior Board. The ambassadors each received a $1,000 scholarship from the Purdue Grand Prix Foundation. Fifteen other students received scholarships ranging from $250 to $750.

The Purdue Grand Prix Foundation is a student-run, nonprofit organization that conducts the kart race and related events to raise money for scholarships. The foundation also receives support from Toyota Motor Corp., Coca-Cola, Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics, WAZY 96.5, WLFF 95.3 and WSHP 95.7.

Writer: Kim Medaris, (765) 494-6998,

Sources: Brad Nicholson, (765) 494-7771,

Megan McCarter, promotions director,

Sarah Jacobs, special events director,

Jeremy Morgan, race director,

Lisa Burns, 50th anniversary coordinator,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Clayton Smith takes a lap en route to the checkered flag in the 2006 Purdue Grand Prix kart race at Purdue. This year's 50th anniversary race will take place on April 21. Events surrounding the Grand Prix will include two alumni races for drivers who raced from 1958-2002 and an appearance by NASA astronaut and Purdue alumnus David Wolf, who will serve as grand marshal. (Purdue News Service file photo/Dave Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at

A driver loses control of his kart during the 1958 Grand Prix. In the early years, hay bales were the only barrier between speeding racers and the nearby crowd. ( Photo courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections,

A publication-quality photo is available at

Drivers speed down the straightaway in lawnmower engine-powered karts during the inaugural Purdue Grand Prix on May 17, 1958. ( Photo courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections,

A publication-quality photo is available at

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