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Local racer raises money for Gwinnett kids

LAWRENCEVILLE - Lawrenceville native and number 28 Legends race car driver Ron Rigdon would say he isn't your typical driver.

The laps he takes around Southern speedways aren't just for personal glory, the speed of a car or the roar of a crowd. His goal is to use the hobby to help local children's charities.

"When I started racing I wanted it to mean something more than just something for me," Rigdon said. "My very first winnings I donated."

As the owner of Ron's Auto Sales at the intersection of West Pike Street and Langley Drive in Lawrenceville, Rigdon said he's always had a love for cars.

Getting behind the wheel of a real racer more than 4 years ago, he said he knew he wanted to race.

Years after his first lap, the 51-year-old came in second in the 2006-2007 Winter Flurry Series, has raced at Atlanta Motor Speedway, is NASCAR and Sports Car Club of America licensed and the winner of the 2007 Masters Division Championship at Lanier National Speedway.

But he said these titles simply serve as a way to his means - raising money for children.

Having established his own racing team, Circle Heart Racing, in 2003, Rigdon has raised more than $10,000 for the Speedway Children Charities - a nonprofit devoted to special-needs children.

"I solicited friends and relatives and I own a car dealership, so I solicited people to make donations for every lap I made," Rigdon said. "Some would do 50 cents a lap or 25 cents a lap. I ran 440 laps last season and generally the donations were about $400 dollars."

Rigdon said he plans to do the same for the 2008 season, aiming to raise money for the Gwinnett Children's Shelter with a goal of raising $2,000.

In addition to the shelter, the driver said he hopes to raise $6,000 for Speedway Children Charities and the same amount for a few other Atlanta-area children's organizations, bringing his total goal to $18,000.

Though the official racing season doesn't start until the spring, Rigdon said he's already looking for people to lock in their promise to support the cause.

Rigdon said a pledge can be entered online at www.circleheartracing.com or by contacting him at 404-925-7350.

Rigdon said he plans to drive in about 12 races next year. He said he anticipates running about 250 laps and he hopes to push up the donation to about $2 a lap.

"We really need help from the people. The hardest part is getting the sponsors," Rigdon said.

"Kids don't have a decision in their situation and I think we have an obligation to help them. We've been so blessed with what we have, and I can't think of anything better than kids to give to. This is where my heart took me."