NASCAR pays up to fight terror

Sponsors, teams pledge millions for rescuers, families of attack victims

Auto Racing

September 21, 2001|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

DOVER, Del. - Stock car racing's roots are deep in the United States. Just how deep is clear as plans are made to honor and help the victims of last week's terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Going into this weekend's race at Dover Downs International Speedway, NASCAR officials report pledges of more than $27 million have been made by drivers, sponsors and manufacturers participating in the sport. Some teams and sponsors are still deciding on plans.

Pfizer, sponsor of Mark Martin's Ford, has donated $15 million to the recovery fund in New York City. The DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund, is sending $10 million to support victims' children.

Jeff Burton's sponsor, CITGO, has teamed with the American Red Cross to donate $1 million worth of motor fuel to air relief efforts in both New York and Washington. Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s sponsor, Anheuser-Busch, has sent $1 million to the American Red Cross in Greater New York, donated almost 10,000 cases of canned water to aid victims and rescue workers and encouraged employees to donate blood.

"I am not a sentimental person, but when it comes to this tragedy, it's different," said driver Bobby Hamilton, who with his team owner Andy Petree will donate a total of $20 a lap completed over the 400 laps of the MBNA Cal Ripken, Jr. 400 Sunday. "Everyone pulls together in bad times, and that's what makes our country so strong."

Many teams, including that of driver Matt Kenseth, who drives for Towson-based sponsor DeWalt, are changing their cars' paint schemes to display the American flag and the words "God Bless America." Others, such as Johnny Benson, will have "American Red Cross, 1-800-HELP NOW" number on the TV panel instead of sponsors' names.

Eight teams, and possibly more, are making donations based on laps run with figures ranging from $10 to $40 a lap. Hendrick's Motorsports, cars of which include that of three-time champion and current points leader Jeff Gordon, is sending no less than $30,000 from its owner and employees to the Red Cross. Gordon, who hosts an annual golf tournament in Wilmington, Del., to benefit charities, will send a portion of the proceeds to families affected by last week's tragedy.

Employees at Joe Gibbs Racing have raised $6,000 for the Red Cross. Home Depot, which sponsors the car of Gibbs' driver, Tony Stewart, has sent $1 million to United Way's September 11th Fund.

"I'd like to send my own message to [the terrorists]," said Stewart. "I sure don't feel like crawling in a hole and hiding because of what these people have done. I think - if nothing else - it has made our country stronger.

"Just going about our business - but at the same time making sure that we're helping the victims of this whole deal in any way we can while resuming as normal of a life as we can - is in the best interest of this country."

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