By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- The recent tragedy in Aurora, Colo., struck close to home for one of the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams -- quite literally.
The July 20 movie theater shooting that killed 12 people and wounded 58 others occurred just seven miles from the Furniture Row Racing shop in Denver.
Accordingly, the organization decided to create a memorial to the victims -- and to the heroism of those who prevented additional loss of life -- with the No. 78 Chevrolet Regan Smith will drive in Sunday's Crown Royal 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
On Friday, the team wrapped the car with decals that pay tribute to the victims. The rear quarter panels read "Aurora, CO" with the names of the 12 people killed in the shooting listed below. On the hood is a depiction of a ribbon that contains a cross and the "CO" logo that appears on the state flag.
The TV panel (rear bumper) features the inscription: "For those lost, Those injured and Countless Acts of Bravery 7/20/12."
Kimber Avra, an employee of the Furniture Row Companies, was at the theater when the shooting occurred. She escaped with scrapes and bruises, but her friend, Micayla Medek, was one of the 12 killed in the attack by a single gunman. Former graduate student James Holmes is accused of the crime.
"Our hearts go out to the victims and their families," Furniture Row Racing general manager Joe Garone said. "It really hits home for us here in Colorado. ... We mourn the loss of life from this senseless tragedy and feel we also need to stand up and acknowledge the heroism of those people who put their lives on the line to save others."
EDWARDS' CREW CHIEF CHANGE A COLLECTIVE DECISION
Carl Edwards takes umbrage at the notion that the health problems of former crew chief Bob Osborne were merely a convenient excuse to usher in his replacement.
"I know a couple of you guys have insinuated and have thought this health thing is not as big a deal as it seems," said Edwards, who declined to go into specifics about Osborne's health issues during a Saturday media session at the speedway.
"I can't overstate enough that Bob is a very, very dedicated guy to our sport, and he is going through something right now that would be tough for anyone, and for him to have done what he has done at this level and to have kept it quiet, he is just a tough, tough man."
According to Edwards, Osborne initiated the conversation that led to his replacement as crew chief by Chad Norris. Edwards said he had very little impact on the decision, which was announced July 17, after a meeting that included owner Jack Roush, general manager Robbie Reiser, engineer Chip Bolin, Osborne and Edwards.
"No, I didn't have much impact in it," he said. "I haven't worked with Chad, so I didn't know much about him. We sat there, Jack, Robbie, Chip and Bob, and they all said it was the best thing, and this was what we were going to do. We discussed it and talked to Chad and brought him in the office and talked to him a little bit.
"If you look out there across the sport, this looks like the best thing we could do -- maybe not for the long run -- but for right now, this was as simple of a change with as much blue sky in front of it that we could make."
Norris faces an uphill climb. Edwards hasn't won in 52 races and is 11th in the standings, 46 points out of 10th, the last position guaranteed a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Edwards has seven events to make up the deficit -- or to win a race and put himself in the conversation for one of two wild-card spots.
HARVICK: REPAVED TRACKS ARE MORE RELEVANT TO INDY
Now that Pocono and Michigan have been repaved, 2003 Brickyard winner Kevin Harvick believes those tracks will be more helpful in preparing for Indianapolis.
There have always been perceived parallels between Pocono and the Brickyard, but the new, smoother surface at the Pennsylvania track lends itself more readily to setups that translate to historic 2.5-mile Indianapolis.
"I think you bring a lot more to Indy just because of Pocono and Michigan and how aggressive you can be with the front of the car and keeping the splitter on the ground," Harvick said. "I think those race tracks apply more to each other than they have in the past.
"They obviously have applied in the past, but I think you can be aggressive at all three of them now."
A DREAM WEEKEND AT CHICAGOLAND FOR 10 BUCKS?
For one lucky race fan, an investment of $10 will buy a dream weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, and experience that includes chilling with NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch.
The top prize in the Armed Forces Foundation raffle, which runs through Aug. 26, includes luxury infield accommodations in a motor home for the Sept. 16 race weekend at Chicagoland, infield tickets to the NASCAR Nationwide Series event and Cup Chase race and a visit from Busch, whose foundation also is a sponsor of the raffle.
StarCoach Race Tours provides the amenities, which include airport transfers, unlimited food, snacks and beverages and campsite entertainment featuring DJ equipment, gaming systems and exterior TVs.
Fans interesting in participating in the raffle, which benefits the AFF's work with wounded soldiers and their families, can visit charitysplits.info/aaf to purchase tickets.