Hey Cletus, “Dat dere car haz S’tember 11th stuff on it… in April!”

One doesn’t have to look too far to discover the mockery of NASCAR’s pre-race prayers and the love the drivers give to their sponsors. One of my favorite movies, “Talladega Nights,” spends 121 minutes doing just that. Hilarious clip HERE.

Yes, there is a prayer before each and every race. Some pastors take it too far:

And truth be told, the sponsors who pay to have their names and logos plastered all over the cars and the drivers’ fire suits make the sport of NASCAR “go ’round.” It costs upwards of $15 million a year to run a single car in NASCAR’s premier Sprint Cup Series. So, naturally, the drivers, team members and owners have to verbally fellate their sponsors every chance they have. The contracts with the sponsors demand that they do that.

Some weeks, though, the cars and drivers are adorned with colors and logos of various non profits.

The vertically challenged Jeffrey Michael Gordon, driver of the famed #24 DuPont Chevrolet; has been sporting a secondary sponsor lately: Drive to End Hunger:

Jeff Gordon Sporting Drive to End Hunger Gear

Drive to End Hunger is AARP Foundation’s multipronged focus on the problem of older adult hunger in America. We’re taking steps to feed those who are hungry now while also developing long-term, sustainable solutions to the root causes of hunger among those 50 and older.

Jimmie Kenneth Johnson, a five time Sprint Cup Champion and driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, and his wife, Chandra, started the Jimmie Johnson Foundation which has been featured on his car several times over the years:

Lowe's Car Featuring Jimmie Johnson Foundation Graphics

Chandra and Jimmie Johnson launched the Jimmie Johnson Foundation in 2006.  To date, more than $5 million has been contributed to various organizations.

The foundation currently focuses on funding K-12 public education, primarily through the Jimmie Johnson Foundation/Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Champions Grants program.  Champions Grants have been awarded to 53 schools located in California, Oklahoma and North Carolina, where the Johnsons grew up and currently reside.

In addition, the foundation selects twelve charities each year to be featured on Johnson’s Helmet of Hope.  These charities are selected from nominations made by fans and media members nationwide. Helmet of Hope charities receive a grant of $10,000 and national exposure on the helmet worn for a select Sprint Cup race.

Past foundation partnerships include working with San Diego Habitat for Humanity to construct four homes on Foundation Lane in El Cajon, and building Jimmie Johnson’s Victory Lanes, a four lane bowling center for campers at Pattie and Kyle Petty’s Victory Junction in Randleman, N.C.  The foundation continues to work with the Hendrick Marrow Program, Make-A-Wish and the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte.

Being a Ford guy, I am not a race fan of the above two drivers (because they’re whiny bitches). However, I’m a huge fan of their contributions to others in need.

I’m also a huge fan of Roush/Fenway Racing, and Carl Edwards is my dude! I also have a ton of respect for Matthew Roy Kenseth, 2003 Cup Series Champion and driver of the #17 Ford Fusion.

A quick aside here: Back in 2001, just two weeks after the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. at the Daytona 500, I went to the Cleveland Auto Show with Alexis (she was six weeks shy of four years old) to try to get autographs from Matt Kenseth and Jeremy Mayfield. We waited in line for three hours before we finally got to the autograph table. Mayfield was a dick… basically took the picture provided to us by the Ford folks and moved on to the next fan. Kenseth, coming off his rookie season in which he won the rookie of the year award, talked to us. He asked how old Alexis was, I commended him on his great rookie season…. then… out of the blue, Alexis said to Matt, “I don’t want you to die too, like Dale Earnhardt did.” I saw tears well up in his eyes; shit I started to lose it. Matt asked me to stand Alexis on the autograph table. He gave her a big hug and assured her he’d be safe. Then he signed the Ford picture, her hat and her shirt. Security actually had to move us along. Matt didn’t have to spend that extra time with us; he could have blown us off like the meth head thief Mayfield did. That few minutes made us fans of Matt for life.

ANYWAY…. as we speak, Matt Kenseth is driving his Ford Fusion at Martinsville Speedway that features a couple non profits… and a salute to a wounded American soldier.

Most prominently featured on the car is the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation:

Kenseth's Car Featuring Tunnel to Towers/Gary Sinise Foundation Graphics

The sole purpose of our Foundation is to honor the legacy of love given to us by Stephen Siller, FDNY, who laid down his life on 9/11, by “doing good” in his name.   The mission is to follow Stephen’s footsteps through support of children who have lost a parent, firefighters, and military who have been seriously injured and sacrifice their quality of life in the line of duty.

Another non profit featured on Matt’s car, who works in tandem with the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation, is the Gary Sinise Foundation:

Gary Sinise with J.B. Kerns

A letter from one of my favorite actors, Mr. Gary Sinise:

For the past several years I have devoted much of my time to supporting the men and women who protect and defend our great country.  I have met many dedicated people who are actively working to do the same and I have tried to do what I can to support their efforts as well as spearhead many projects on my own in support of those who serve, as well as their families.

I have formed the Gary Sinise Foundation to help build additional resources for these efforts and to help highlight the activities of those who continue to do all they can to keep military families strong.  I’ve traveled to visit our troops in Iraq and around the world and have also performed with my band (Gary Sinise and the lt. Dan Band ) in Afghanistan, Europe, United Kingdom, Asia, Guantanamo Bay and throughout the U.S. in an effort to help boost the morale of our troops and military families.

With help from supporters such as yourself, through the Gary Sinise Foundation, we will continue to expand this mission to support our nation’s defenders, veterans, first responders and their loved ones to promote the importance of keeping our country strong by taking care of those who serve.  There’s much more work to be done.

Mr. Sinise’s foundation provides a good segue into another bit of graphics on Matt’s car:

J.B. with the #17 Car

This is Matt Kenseth’s personal tribute to J.B. Kerns.

On April 1 at Martinsville Speedway, reigning Daytona 500 champion Matt Kenseth will race a special car that honors an American hero.  Kenseth’s No. 17 Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers/Gary Sinise Foundation Ford Fusion is a personal tribute to United States Marine Cpl. Josh “J.B.” Kerns, who grew up just a few minutes from the track.

Just one year ago, Kerns was injured by an IED explosion while on his third tour to Afghanistan in which he lost both of his legs and an arm.

Kerns, a combat engineer, was on a mine sweep in a safety zone, on April 7, 2011.  In one second, his tour of duty took a catastrophic turn; he lost three of his limbs and sustained other serious injuries to his chest and groin areas from shrapnel from an IED that detonated.
Since that explosion, J.B. was brought back to the United States for treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC.  He has undergone extensive surgeries and strenuous daily physical and occupational therapy.
Donations to the above two foundations, and proceeds from sales of the die cast replica of Matt’s Martinsville car (which I’m gonna buy when I’m done writing this), will go towards building a “smart home” for J.B. that will help to make his life easier.
Approximately eight million people will watch today’s race. Like NASCAR or hate it… these dudes do a lot to help others in need.

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