KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Like the rest of the nation, the NASCAR community showed up at Kansas Speedway this week saddled with heavy hearts over the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath.
As teams arrived at the track Friday, they found out it hit even closer to home than they had thought.
Sean Collier, 26, the MIT police officer shot and killed by the bombing suspects late Thursday night outside Boston, is the brother of Hendrick Motorsports machinist Andrew Collier. The team issued a statement Friday confirming the relation, offering condolences and asking for privacy for the family.
"It's a very sad time,'' Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson told reporters Friday morning. "My thoughts and prayers are with the Collier family and I certainly know that it's the same thing for all of Hendrick Motorsports. We're one big family and it's sad and unfortunate to see a fellow teammate and his family going through a tough time.''
According to Cambridge police, Sean Collier was found dead in his patrol car on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus where he has worked since 2012. Collier is remembered as a dedicated officer on the police force.
Andrew Collier, 25, works in the Hendrick engine shop and has been a part of the company since September 2008.
Johnson, in particular, has had a personal connection to the attacks.
"It's ever-changing, to be honest with you,'' Johnson said. "Monday, I think everyone dealt with grief and sadness and shock. Tuesday, I found out that the Gross family from Charlotte that was injured in the bombing... I had, not an attachment to, but I know who Nicole (Gross) is.
"The pool that I swim at on Tuesdays and Thursdays, she's there often instructing others; she's a swim coach and works with a lot of people. So that brought it a little closer to home for me.''
Word quickly spread throughout the garage area about the Collier family as drivers offered their thoughts and prayers. At each opportunity during television interviews, drivers from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Jamie McMurray expressed their sympathies and shock at the entire situation.
Jack Roush, founder and co-owener of Roush Fenway Racing, announced this week that he will make a donation to the Boston Marathon victims fund, additionally pledging $100 for every lap led by the three RFR Fords this weekend.
"We have a lot of ties there with the Red Sox and in the garage here,'' said Roush driver Carl Edwards. "Hopefully, in some small way, they can get some enjoyment out of (us racing this weekend) and know we are thinking about them.''
"It's just been a sad week,'' Kansas native Clint Bowyer added, shaking his head and looking for words. "It's touched everybody all week long and a shame these things keep happening. Everybody's been following this and it really affects everyone.''
Like many of his colleagues, he has been keeping track of Twitter for the lastest news and stealing time in front of the television for updates.
Team owner Michael Waltrip -- who competed in the 2000 Boston Marathon -- and his three Toyotas are honoring the victims by changing the car numbers to look like the bibs that runners pin on their clothing before the run.
"The news coming out of Boston this week was very personal to me," said Waltrip. "When I ran the Boston Marathon in 2000, I remember thinking about what a privilege it was to be able to participate and all the hard work it took to be there.
"When you can see those international flags flying in Copley Square, you know you are about to complete your journey. I know the joy those runners were feeling at that moment when their worlds changed.
"It was a great moment of pride when they pinned the Boston Marathon bib on me, so I thought it would be great to pin bib numbers on our race cars this week in Kansas.''
Like Bowyer, another of Waltrip's drivers, Martin Truex Jr., expressed his sadness. While he said the drivers are mindful of the job they have this weekend, they are obviously mindful and curious about news of the situation.
"I was watching it all last night, saw what happened at MIT and was like, 'What's next? What's wrong with people? When is this going to end?''' Truex said. "I'm very proud to run the bib numbers on the car this weekend. It hit Michael really close to home; he's run the marathon.
"Hopefully we can do a little to help them out and let them know we're thinking about them.''
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