NASCAR reaches out after storms

Talladega driving unique relief effort

May 04, 2011|By George Diaz

NASCAR Nation remained relatively unscathed in the wake of the devastating storms that rocked Alabama and surrounding areas.

There was a bit of minor damage at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Nothing much worth noting at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., which was fortunate to have escaped the wrath of nature twice in the span of a few weeks.

Nationwide Series driver Eric McClure got the worst of it. He survived what he describes as the "most helpless and scary" moment of his life when a tornado tore through his home in Abingdon, Va.

"It looks like a war zone, a minefield," McClure told reporters. "It's a debris field as far as you can see. It's shocking. We have never experienced anything like that before."

McClure spent about four hours under a basement staircase with his wife, three children and two poodles, and they survived without injury.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for other families and individuals in the region as at least 350 people are dead. In Tuscaloosa, Ala., more than 200 people remain missing.

And that's why the NASCAR family is stepping in to help, in a number of ways.

Ever thought what it would be like to tangle with Talladega Superspeedway?

Now's your chance.

Grant Lynch, the track's chairman, is offering fans the opportunity to drive at a controlled speed between 65-70 mph for a couple of laps Friday-Sunday, in return for a donation to the Red Cross. The money will be designated for victims of the storms.

A minimum $50 donation will be requested.

This is just one way NASCAR is reaching out to help.

Talladega has committed $100,000 to the American Red Cross for its relief efforts. The NASCAR Foundation also has set up a website accepting donations.

"The (storm) that came into Birmingham … it looked like hell coming," Lynch told scenedaily.com, reflecting on the most recent storms. "You could see the storm through the TV tower camera, then it just wrapped it up and it was gone."

Atlanta Motor Speedway managed to escape major damage even though a tornado touched down just two miles away.

"We had to blow off some debris and stuff, and we're picking up boards with nails in them and sheet metal and stuff like that all around the property," track President Ed Clark said.

"The tornado went about two miles south of us and leveled a convenience store and some buildings. We got lucky."

Not everyone can say the same.

gdiaz@tribune.com

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