Everything about the NASCAR community seems larger than life.
The racing venues scattered across the nation can accommodate tens of thousands – and in some places even hundreds of thousands – of enthusiastic spectators. Not content with simply pitting two teams against one another, a NASCAR event fields 43.
On race day, the grandstands resemble a huge, exotic field of waving, cheering flowers, running a gamut of colors from Office Depot red and Lowe’s blue to the regal purple of Crown Royal. NASCAR is loud, fast and flashy, and no one expects, or wants, that to change anytime soon.
Things quiet down a bit at the end of the day, when the race is over and the teams are packed up and headed for home. That’s when you begin to notice another thing that’s big about NASCAR – its heart.
This is a sport that truly cares. Rarely a race passes without a car sporting a special paint scheme, designed to raise money, awareness or both for a particular cause. Even the racetracks get involved; the name of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway on May 15 is the “FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks.”
A quick look at just the past week alone provides a stellar example of what NASCAR is doing around its communities when it isn’t racing around the track.
On May 5, the Florence (S.C.) Country Club hosted the Jim Hunter Memorial Golf Tournament. Proceeds from the event benefited the NASCAR Foundation, an organization primarily dedicated to children’s causes, as well as the University of South Carolina and the McLeod Children’s Hospital. NASCAR Foundation initiatives include Speediatrics, a pediatric-care hospital unit specially designed to help ease the trauma of long hospital stays for kids; NASCAR Dreams, which helps kids’ racing wishes come true; and the annual NASCAR Day fundraiser, coming up on May 20.
The 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte’s No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Toyota arrived in Darlington for the Showtime Southern 500 sporting a patriotic paint scheme and a couple of special decals. Sponsor Snyder’s-Lance Inc. recently entered into a partnership with the Armed Forces Foundation. The Foundation’s logo will be positioned on the quarter panels of Labonte’s car throughout the summer months to show support for our troops and their families. Snyder’s-Lance is leading the charge with a matching gift of $25,000.
JTG Daugherty Racing is also placing an American Red Cross decal on the car, encouraging fans to remember the thousands of people affected by tornadoes, floods and wildfires this year.
“So many people have been displaced and our hearts go out to everyone that has been touched,” Labonte says. “Red Cross disaster teams are working so hard to provide people with shelter, meals, emotional support and essential relief supplies … In addition to donating to the Red Cross, NASCAR has also responded to the devastation caused by the outbreak of tornadoes. They have created the NASCAR Unites Disaster Relief Fund.”
Launched in April 2011, NASCAR Unites is an industry initiative led by The NASCAR Foundation that creates an opportunity for NASCAR fans, drivers, teams, tracks, sponsors and others to work together and help improve the lives of America’s children.
Ryan Newman is well-known for his animal welfare efforts. Recognizing that pets are also victims of natural disasters, the Ryan Newman Foundation has joined forces with the Greater Birmingham (Ala.) Humane Society (GBHS) to help provide care for animals displaced by the recent rash of tornadoes, and to horses injured during the storms. The Foundation is accepting both supplies and monetary donations as part of this relief effort.
Ryan’s wife Krissie, president of the Foundation, says, “I can’t begin to imagine what the families who lost loved ones and everything they own are going through. Among the tragedy, many pets have lost their owners or are lost themselves, looking for comfort. We can use all the help we can get from NASCAR fans and pet lovers to raise money and collect donations for our mission.”
Bob Hope once said that if you have no charity in your heart, you suffer from the worst kind of heart trouble. These examples, and many more like them, describe the heart of the racing community as no amount of flowery prose ever could.
Even when its motors aren’t running, NASCAR’s engines continue to roar.