This weekend marks the midway point of NASCAR’s closest yet Chase for the championship, with just eight drivers within 20 points of the top of the leader board. Yet in the midst of the Chase, charity has also been a major theme at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the race weekend.
[media-credit name=”goutpitstop.com” align=”alignright” width=”223″][/media-credit]The major charitable focus, as expected in the month of October, has been for breast cancer awareness. Almost all of the race cars have been adorned with some sort of pink accents, from the recognizable pink ribbon logos, to pink lanyards and gloves worn by the NASCAR officials.
“Breast cancer awareness month is one of those unique opportunities in which the NASCAR industry and NASCAR fans rally together for such a special and important cause,” Sandy Marshall, executive director of The NASCAR Foundation, said. “Each year the program gets bigger.”
Other charities featured in the Chase race weekend at Charlotte include the USO on Clint Bowyer’s No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevy, as well as the No. 16 machine of Greg Biffle sporting a paint scheme for the 3M/Give Kids a Smile effort.
The most unique charitable initiative, however, is one led by Kevin ‘Bono’ Manion, crew chief for the No. 1 Bass Pro Shop/Arctic Cat Chevrolet driven by Jamie McMurray. Manion has been leading the charge for a new gout awareness campaign in conjunction with the Men’s Health Network and Takeda.
Manion suffers from gout, a form of arthritis that affects over 8.3 million people in the United States. It is often misunderstood as a disease afflicting those who are rich who indulge in too much food and alcohol.
“It’s an educational campaign to bring awareness to anyone suffering from gout,” Manion said. “I’ve had it for about ten years and for awhile I didn’t know what it was.”
“I suffered a lot until the pain got so unbearable that you couldn’t sleep because the sheets couldn’t touch your foot,” Manion continued. “I’ve heard of gout before but always thought of somebody that drank a lot or that it was a rich man’s disease.”
“I’m basically trying to get the word out there and to let others know that they are not alone.”
Manion has partnered in the awareness campaign with Men’s Health Network and Takeda. His participation as a spokesperson has not only helped to educate himself about the disease but also to reach others who may be suffering.
One of the biggest issues related to gout is the shock of receiving the diagnosis, particularly due to the stigma and stereotyping of the illness.
“When I got my diagnosis, I was surprised for sure,” Manion said. “I’m not a heavy drinker and don’t do those things that they say trigger a flare up.”
“When I went to the doctor finally, I thought I had a broken foot or a broken toe,” Manion continued. “I went to get X-rayed and they told me that I had gout instead.”
“It was surprising but you wouldn’t believe the people that I’ve met who are suffering too.”
Manion has learned many lessons after being diagnosed with gout. Other than having some occasional pain climbing up the ladder to the top of the pit box or running around on race weekend, he has been able to manage his symptoms.
“What I’ve learned is that you have to take care of yourself,” Manion said. “Like your race car, you’ve got to take care of your body”.
“As we get older, things change and for me I hopefully have not done any damage by not taking care of myself,” Manion continued. “Everyone’s different.”
“There’s surely ways to manage through medication, exercise and watching your diet,” Manion said. “But it’s basically being cautious of what’s going on.”
This weekend, Manion has spent time in the Fan Zone sharing his experience and educating race fans on this illness.
“A lot of people I’ve met haven’t been to the doctor so encouraging people to see their health care provider to get checked out,” Manion said. “We have information at the ‘Gout Pit Stop’ booth and people can also visit the website www.goutpitstop.com for more information as well.”
While Manion and many of the other drivers and teams in the sport focus on charitable endeavors throughout the race weekend, they have just one other goal in common. All want to chase the win in the Bank of America 500.
“Our goal is to win the race,” Manion said simply. “We have a great record and Jamie loves this place. We have a win here so with a 500 mile race, we hope to have a good car for the long haul.”