This year I have begun to get reacquainted with NASCAR. It had been years since I watched the races or even followed who was driving but I decided this year that I needed another sport to round out my year. Football is long gone- Steelers still Rock!!!, Basketball is winding down sadly and well, bowling and golf are just plain boring on TV. Hmmm, that leaves baseball which I find rather painful to watch unless I am sitting in the stands with a nice warm sun and a nice cold beer- then at least the beer is enjoyable.
Over the years since I first watched NASCAR it has changed. The good ole boys of racing have perhaps refined a bit, learned to talk in front of a camera, discovered that image is important and yes, perhaps they even primp a bit for the fans- that would be the ladies of course. One thing I think that has not changed but has grown due to the popularity of racing today is the bigheartedness that the racing community has always had.
Here are just two examples of the bigheartedness I have discovered.
Jeremy Mayfield's #19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger will feature a photograph of 24-year-old Jennifer Kesse, missing from the Orlando, Fla., area since Jan. 24, during Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Kesse was reported missing when she failed to show up for work on Jan. 24. You can read more about it here.
And the one the is nearer my heart is The Victory Junction Gang Camp, a idea launched by Kyle and Pattie Petty in honor of their son Adam who died in May 2000 during a Busch series practice. With the help of Paul Newman (keep buying those Newman products folks!) who began the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps the Victory Junction Gang Camp is now a reality and is a NASCAR based camp for children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses. The camp is free of a charge to the children or families. They rely upon the generosity of individuals, corporations and foundations to meet our operating needs and let me tell you that the list of NASCAR drivers who support this camp financially is long.
The camp is set up so that children with very similar medical situations are in camp at the same time. This makes it easier to set up the medical needs for each particular disease or illness and it also allows the campers to meet other campers who are experiencing the same lifestyle that they are. This is an amazing way to help children with very special needs to forget about their difficulties for a while and just have fun. For many children this is the first time they have been away from home and perhaps the first time they were allowed to forget about what is wrong with them and remember what is right. It is a magical, memorable and medically-advanced facility where the lives of children and their families are fueled with memories of fun, friendship and success. My daughter Jessica would have loved a camp like this. I can just hear the laughter already. Please check the site out. It will warm your heart too.
I will go on record as saying that I think Denny Hamlin in the FedEx #11 is one driver to be watching out for this year.