NASCAR World Felt Tragedy

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Today is a national day of remembrance – but a day one year ago that Americans would just as soon forget.

It’s almost impossible to put out of our minds the events of one year ago today, when terrorists shocked the world by attacking the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

The events of 9/11/01 shook up the country and the lives of many of thousands caught up in the tragedy. It also disrupted the routine of every day America, the world of NASCAR notwithstanding.

Many national sporting events, including the fall Winston Cup Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway, were either canceled or postponed. Because there were no open dates for the remainder of the year, the New Hampshire date was pushed back to Thanksgiving weekend, a weekend that few wished even existed on the calendar.

Some have very vivid memories of that horrible day.

“I remember it like it happened two minutes ago,” said Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. “I was actually at (team owner) Eddie Wood’s house (in Stuart, Va.) getting ready to go to the shop because I had stayed with him the night before because I was going to the shop to see all the guys. He called me and said, ‘Man, you need to turn on CNN. Some airplane just ran into the Twin Towers.’

“While we were watching it, the second plane came. I remember getting dressed and rushing to the shop and the whole team was sitting in Eddie’s office watching the whole day’s deal on CNN. It is just something I’ll never forget. The clips and stuff we see now are unbelievable, too. I’m sure television doesn’t do it any justice. It is still just overwhelming – all the stories that are being told.

“If I could send a message to anybody, it would be a wish that Americans and everyone would realize what the U.S. Air Force and all the Armed Forces are doing for our safety. I wish everyone would understand how tough it is when members of the Armed Services are flying out to Afghanistan and other places to protect us and our country. I think sometime, even now, people take our safety and freedom for granted. They don’t realize what has happened to make it come true.”

“I was at my office and it’s actually kind of ironic because of the day it happened, Jeff Roberson (a friend) was in his office and I went outside to get some things out of my motorcoach,” said Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Ford. “Jeff rents an office from me and he came outside and said, ‘Ricky, you’ve got to see this.’ I could tell by the look on his face that something pretty big happened and, yeah, I remember every bit of it.

“Chronologically, I remember that whole morning. I remember thinking it was so uncomfortable. When things like that happen, you just don’t know how to feel, how to act or what to think. It was around 9 o’clock and I had to be in Hickory (N.C.) later that morning and I thought, ‘Should I go or should I not go? Should I go get my kids out of school?’ I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to react. That’s the part I remember is not having any idea of what to do. The thing about it, too, is that we were 800 miles away. Imagine the confusion in New York City that day.”

Bobby Labonte likened the Sept. 11 events to another American tragedy – Pearl Harbor, in 1941.

“That’s been 60 or so years ago and people still remember that day, and this will be no different,” Labonte said. “You think about what has happened and how it’s really affected all of us. In some ways, it seems like we’re back to business as usual a year later, which I know is the way that everybody wants it to be. But, the feelings felt still need to be there in your heart and in your mind and in your representation of it.

“Sept. 11 is a day that will stand in your mind forever – at least in my lifetime it will. It will be depressing and, at times, it will be hard – obviously, but not as hard as it was last year – but, it will still be hard.”

Some in the NASCAR world will show their national pride this weekend at New Hampshire International Speedway and pay tribute to the victims and those who lost their lives in the line of duty. In honor of the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy, Ken Schrader’s No. 36 M&Ms Pontiac will carry the American flag on its deck lid at Loudon. The American flag will be prominently displayed on the car at Dover the next week as well.

Kevin Harvick’s No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevy will also sport a patriotic paint scheme for this weekend’s race at NHIS, and all of Hendrick Motorsports’ Chevys – four in the Winston Cup Series and two in the Busch Series – will display commemorative artwork for upcoming races.

All four of Hendrick’s Winston Cup teams will run identical “9-11” logos for the New Hampshire 300, as well as the Sept. 22 MBNA All-American Heroes 400 at Dover. Hendrick’s Busch teams will sport the logos on the cars for the MBNA All-American Heroes 200 at Dover on Sept. 21.

“We all have our own thoughts and feelings about the anniversary of Sept. 11,” team owner Rick Hendrick said. “Everyone involved with our teams, from sponsors to drivers to crew members, felt it was important for us to do something in memory of those events and the people affected by them.”

Commemorative Deals
RMG3 and RacingOne.com’s Fan Shop is offering memorabilia in tribute to the heroes of the Fire Department of New York. T-shirts and hats can be purchased from the shop by clicking here: FDNY Products

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