This Touches Us All

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Tuesday morning’s terrorist attack on the United States has stirred up some pretty strong feelings among Americans, and the NASCAR community is certainly no exception.

Anger, frustration and even apprehension and fear are just some of the emotions that have been expressed. But Tuesday’s tragic events have also brought forth a new sense of national pride and unity.

“I’ve asked myself, ‘What is our country?’ My answer was the land of the free,” said Bobby Hamilton, driver of the No. 55 Square D Chevrolet. “That is the way we live. What happened Tuesday definitely discriminates against our lifestyle. What little retaliation we can do right now until the government makes their decision is to keep life going. We have to keep digging. We can show these people that we’re strong enough to keep going.

“What happened will mark everybody for life. For those of us who weren’t around to see Pearl Harbor, this is our Pearl Harbor. And hopefully we’ll never see this again. I told Bobby Jr. (Hamilton’s son) that the bad thing about this for him is he might live to see this happen twice. It happened in a part of my life that I probably won’t live to see a tragedy such as this happen again. I hope it never happens again. But either way, it’s a bad mark for history.”

Junie Donlavey, the 77-year-old team owner of the No. 90 Hills Bros. Taurus team, served in the United States Navy during World War II and offered a unique perspective on Tuesday’s events.

“I was only 17 when Pear Harbor happened, and it was that event that made me want to go into the service and try to help do something about it, which I did in January of 1943,” Donlavey said. “But I’ll tell you, what happened Tuesday, I believe, has hit a lot closer to home.

“When Japan bombed us (at Pearl Harbor in 1941), we came up with some solutions and we knew we could take care of that problem right away. But a sneak attack like what happened on Tuesday, it just tears you up. You’ve got to extend your heartfelt sorrows to all of those people and families it affected because it’s just terrible, terrible. It’s really a shame they caught us asleep.

“I think what happened is that a lot of people in this country have gotten complacent, but now we’re right on the edge with what happened. Whoever perpetrated this terrible act, it’s going to be a terrible thing for them when it catches up to them. I went into the Navy in 1943, and if I could, I’d go back into the Navy now. That’s how angry it makes you.”

Donlavey said he has a positive feeling that President Bush and American government officials will redeem our country’s “lost pride.”

“I have more confidence in our country’s leadership today than after Pearl Harbor,” Donlavey said. “They’re very smart people and we will bring those people to justice. Every American will be anxiously waiting for that day, I can assure you.”

Much to the relief and approval of many around the NASCAR circles, the Winston Cup Series event in New Hampshire International Speedway this weekend, as well as the Craftsman Truck Series event at Texas Motor Speedway, were postponed Thursday afternoon.

The Winston Cup Series event at New Hampshire has been rescheduled for Nov. 23, the Friday after Thanksgiving.

NASCAR’s decision not to run this weekend at New Hampshire or Texas comes on the heels of the National Football League’s decision to postpone all of its games this Sunday. Major League Baseball has postponed its games since Tuesday and will do so until this coming Monday.

“I’m glad we decided to postpone Sunday’s race,” said Johnny Benson, driver of the No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac. “At times like this we need to think about our country and the families involved in what happened in New York and Washington. As much as I love this sport, I really didn’t feel like racing this weekend.

“This is a tough time for our nation, but we have been through tough times before and I know we’ll get through it. We will put on a heck of a show in New Hampshire in November and reward those fans for their patience. Terrorists aren’t going to stop this country or our sport from going forward.”

“I compliment NASCAR for making the decision because even though a lot of people are gonna be inconvenienced by this, but as American citizens we need to respect what happened in New York City,” said Jimmy Spencer, driver of the No. 26 Kmart Taurus. “NASCAR has done the right thing, without question.

“We need to mourn what happened in the United States this week and, more than ever, we need to realize how strong we have to be. We have to make our military stronger and we have to make all kinds of different things happening in our country right now stronger. The way I look at it, it could very easily be a NASCAR event where they could do sabotage, and that bothers me a whole lot.

John Andretti comes from perhaps the most famous family in the history of motorsports, and he’s been racing since he was a youngster. This week’s events, however, hit him hard and he’s glad not to be going to New Hampshire this weekend.

“Outside of my family, nothing on earth has meant as much to me as driving a race car, since I was a little kid,” the driver of Petty Enterprises’ No. 43 Dodge said. “That’s all I’ve ever done, and all I’ve ever wanted to do. When somebody like me is wondering whether I really want to race on a weekend or not, then a lot of people must be having some serious doubts.”

Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Citgo Supergard Taurus, expressed his anger over the entire situation and hopes things return to the normal routine soon.

“In the grand scheme of things, not running this weekend is probably the right thing to do,” Burton said. “It makes me mad. Part of my emotions in this thing is that I want to make sure that the idiots that did this don’t win. With all the pain that they’ve caused, we’ve got to make sure they don’t win and that’s part of me wanting to get back to normalcy. I want to just shove that back in the face of these idiots and show them that we are resilient.”

Two Penske drivers and two NASCAR teams have said they will help to aid victims and families involved in Tuesday’s terrorist attacks, beginning at Dover Downs International Raceway, the site of next Sunday’s race.

Jeremy Mayfield and the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus Team, and Rusty Wallace and the No. 2 Miller Lite Taurus team, will donate $40 per lap completed at Dover to the Disaster Relief Fund of the American Red Cross. Other teams have now joined in the fund in a similar fashion.

“We wanted to so this as soon as we could, and since New Hampshire was postponed, Dover is the next race,” Mayfield said. “I’m putting up $10 a lap and the No. 12 team is up another $10 per laps. Rusty is also going to put up $10 a lap and his team is putting up another $10 per lap. That would be $16,000 between the two of us if we run as well as we are capable of running.”

Wallace said he hopes the effort will grow considerably among the NASCAR community.

“What we want to do is encourage every driver and every team in the race at Dover to do the same thing,” Wallace said. “We did a little math and, if we had done this in last year’s race, there would have been a quarter of a million dollars going to the American Red Cross.”

Total laps completed in the September race at Dover last year were 13,470. At $20 per lap, that would make $269,400.

“We’re awfully lucky to be living in this country and we’re awfully lucky to have missed the disasters of Tuesday," Mayfield said. "This is a way for all of us in NASCAR Winston Cup racing to give a little something back.”

"There is a lot that has been done and a lot still left to do, especially in Manhattan," Wallace said. "A lot of people have been hurt. I’m sure a lot of those people were race fans but, even if they weren’t, we need to show we care and do something to help."

The weekend for which the New Hampshire 300 has been rescheduled promises not to be a pleasant one. The average temperature in New Hampshire at that time is nearly 30 degrees.

“Everybody is going to have to re-adjust and re-evaluate the new date, and it’s probably going to be pretty cold in New England when we do run,” Andretti said. “But the inconvenience we’re facing is pretty slight compared to what so many people have undergone this week in our country.”

“We are racers and we race in all kinds of conditions,” Burton said. “We will get those conditions in November.”

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