NASCAR Philanthropy Center Stage During Vegas Championship WeekBy Mary Jo Buchanan
First-time Chase contender and MWR racer Martin Truex Jr. spoke passionately about his Foundation work, especially in light of Super Storm Sandy, which deeply affected his home state of New Jersey.
“My family made out very well for the situation and the area they are in,” Truex said. “They are a mile from people that lost their homes and had serious flooding and a very bad time of it.”
“They were very fortunate and all my close friends and family didn’t have major problems which is great,” Truex continued. “But at the same time, a lot of people in the community are struggling.”
“Places where I grew up at the Jersey shore are in shambles,” Truex said. “We’re trying to do all we can do to help.”
“My Foundation has set up a fund and we’ve raised over $150,000 up until this week,” Truex continued. “We’re already starting to disburse those funds to help families and those who really need it.”
“We took a truckload of supplies up there two weeks ago and we’re getting ready to take another one up,” Truex said. “We’re just trying to do all we can to try to get those people on their feet because it’s been a tough time for them.”
Some of Truex’s most favorite memories have been at the Jersey shore, which has led to his passion to help. Yet, as much as he wants to return home, he also dreads seeing the destruction.
“I haven’t been back and I won’t be until Christmas,” Truex said. “We just always went to the beach and did a lot of fishing in the bay.”
“There are a lot of landmarks there that I remember that are probably not there anymore.”
One of the most memorable philanthropic moments came during the annual NASCAR/NMPA Myers Brothers Award luncheon when Jeff Gordon was honored for his charitable work. Gordon was named the 2012 recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association’s Myers Brother award, one of the most prestigious philanthropic awards in NASCAR.
“Off the track, he has raised countless funds for charity through his Foundation for pediatric cancer research,” Burt Myers, grandson of Billy Myers, said on presenting the award to Gordon with his brother Jason Myers. “He has traveled to Rwanda to aid with health care as well as partnering with an organization to put it on the side of his race car as a drive to end hunger.”
Gordon’s voice was choked with emotion as he took the stage to receive the award.
“Oh boy, this is a surprise,” Gordon said. “I’m having a hard time composing myself.”
After the conclusion of the luncheon, Gordon reflected further on his award and why he reacted so emotionally.
“On the race track there is instant gratification but for something like this, to be recognized among your peers at an event that I’ve been coming to for a very long time, it just one, surprised me because I didn’t feel like I had earned that and yet at the same time I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done.”
“I can tell you that it was a shock,” Gordon continued. “You saw as raw emotions as it gets with me and it was very difficult to keep my composure.”
“When you’re being recognized by your peers for something you’ve put so much of your heart into, it brings out those emotions,” Gordon said. “It was a huge honor.”
Gordon shared that the award also meant so much to him because of the people before that he had seen receive it. And he, for one, did not see himself in that same company, at least at this stage in his life and career.
“Coming to the luncheon for all these years and seeing the others that have been recognized and what they did to achieve that award, I don’t feel like I put myself in that category,” Gordon said. “I thought they made a mistake, but at the same time it was reality.”
“It means a lot to me,” Gordon continued. “That was just wearing it on my sleeve.”
Gordon acknowledged that he has definite plans to continue his philanthropic work in the New Year and throughout the 2013 race season. He also said that he would further expand his work with children to other countries in need, in addition to his work in Rwanda.
“We’ve got some great things happening,” Gordon said. “We’re just gaining momentum where we’re starting to be recognized among elite groups when it comes to pediatric cancer.”
“So, not just the work that we’re doing but the future work that can be done not just in the US but also in Rwanda,” Gordon continued. “We hope that is something we can duplicate in other countries.”
“I’ve met people who do great work in other countries and that has intrigued me,” Gordon said. “Now that we’ve done work in Rwanda, I want to look at doing more.”
“I’m interested in other countries that have the same kind of potential with a structured government and a great need.”
“There are many places that need it,” Gordon said. “We try to do everything we do right.”
“Once we feel like we are in place and have our feet solidly on the ground, then we take the next steps to take it to the next level.”
Gordon advised that more announcements about his charitable endeavors in the New Year will be revealed shortly.
“We’re not allowed to announce something that we have coming out in January but I’m very excited about it,” Gordon said. “It’s not an award but being tied to a children’s book that is going to benefit our Foundation.”
“It’s something that I’m proud that they looked at us as a recipient of that.”
On a lighter note, another bit of philanthropy during the Championship week celebrations occurred at NASCAR’s After the Lap. This wide-open, tell-all event hosted by ESPN reported Jamie Little was sold out at Planet Hollywood, with all proceeds benefitting the NASCAR Foundation.
“The first year we did this, it was free to see what kind of feedback and turnout we would get,” After the Lap host Jamie Little said. “When it became such a great event, we started charging $20, with all the proceeds benefitting the NASCAR Foundation, a non-profit that raises funds for children’s charities all over the nation.”
One final moment of charity came when, after a tremendous amount of coaxing from fellow Chase drivers and the After the Lap fans, Denny Hamlin once again reprised his version of the Dougie dance that he had done during driver intros at Bristol earlier in the season. With his busting of moves, Hamlin earned $2,500 for the Foundation that bears his name.