The Sandy Hook car Michael Waltrip will drive in the Daytona 500. (@NASCAR)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - NASCAR, Swan Racing and Michael Waltrip will do their part to contribute funding and awareness to the Sandy Hook relief effort with a custom-designed car to run in next week's Daytona 500.
Waltrip, the two-time Daytona 500 winner, will run for Swan Racing in the No. 26 car, a change from Swan's usual No. 30. The number 26 will be a tribute to the 20 children and six adults killed in the Sandy Hook massacre.
NASCAR president Brian France, whose family knew many of the victims, donated $50,000 to the Sandy Hook School Support fund, and NASCAR matched that. Fans can also donate $10 by texting NEWTOWN to 80888.
Waltrip, France and other NASCAR officials quietly visited Newtown last week to inform the town's leaders of their plans and pass along donations.
"Being in Newtown last week and delivering a moment of happiness to that community was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced," France said. "Looking out at a room of smiling faces amidst the aftermath of a horrible tragedy was very powerful. It hit me that the NASCAR industry and our passionate fan base, which always help those in need, have an unbelievable opportunity to rally around this cause and make a huge difference for a community in need."
The revelation of the car was a powerful moment in an otherwise highly scripted and casual Media Day. The central banquet hall at the track's 500 Club, which had been converted to a media workroom, was utterly silent as France and Waltrip discussed the plans. Waltrip noted that each of his cars will feature a request to fans to text donations to Sandy Hook.
"Driving the No. 26 Sandy Hook School Support Fund Toyota is like nothing I have ever been part of in my NASCAR career," Waltrip said. "It will be an emotional week knowing that we have the potential to do so much good for the Newtown community. I’m racing for a reason."
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