NASCAR is set to honor the victims and first responders of 9/11 at its second-round playoff weekend in Virginia, with one driver praising NASCAR as the “most patriotic” sporting organization “in the world.”
“It’s an honor to be in a sport like NASCAR, that comes together and allows us to do these tributes,” driver Garrett Smithley told Fox News on Saturday, as he made his way to the event. “I would say it’s the most patriotic major sporting organization, I would say, in the world.”
For Smithley, it will be “a race weekend that I’m never gonna forget,” with NASCAR teaming with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum to display a 1,100-pound piece of steel from the World Trade Center, 9/11 tribute paint schemes on cars, and A Wall of Remembrance sponsored by Toyota honoring those who died that day. Smithley also touted that $120,000 will be donated to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation from “We Remember” t-shirts sales created by Nine Line Apparel.
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The event will also welcome Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the track, who is set to drive a car inspired by Ground Zero’s Tribute in Lights.
Smithley explained that he was in fourth grade when the terrorist attacks hit 20 years ago, with him living in Northern Virginia, and patriotism had been instilled in him at a young age.
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“Our family has always been very passionate about the military,” Smithley said, noting both of his grandfathers were service members.
“My parents raised me to love the American flag. The national anthem was pretty much the first song that I ever learned. I sang it when I was three-years-old at a church function, so again I’ve just always been very, very, patriotic. Very passionate about the military, very passionate about the flag,” he added.
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Love of the flag will carry over into the event, with fans receiving American flags at the gate of the raceway, and the Go Bowling 250 and NASCAR Xfinity Series teams unfurling an American flag and 9/11 Memorial and Museum flags at their pit boxes.
Fox News’ Gary Gastelu contributed to this report.