NASCAR: Drivers remember 9/11
Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 11, 2011
RICHMOND — An enormous American flag rippled in the breeze as it hung from a fully extended crane on the frontstretch for hours before Saturday night’s race.
The flag served as a patriotic backdrop while police and military bands performed as part of a pre-race “Salute to America” concert to honor the military and first responders on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Fans were given small American flags as they entered the track, and several drivers did away with their traditional sponsor paint schemes to race in patriotic colors.
Kyle Busch’s Toyota, which normally features images of his sponsor, m&ms, was painted to look like an American flag, and had the words “9-11. Never Forget” across the back.
Ryan Newman, whose team is sponsored by the U.S. Army, raced with a camouflage scheme and the names of all 75 people killed when a hijacked plane slammed into the Pentagon on the hood.
“To have those that were fallen soldiers in the Pentagon is something that is kind of a bittersweet thing to talk about because we want to give them recognition but they are no longer here to receive that recognition,” Newman said. “So it’s about the families and the idea that the people make a sacrifice. To have 75 names of people that lost their lives in that attack on 9-11 (on the car) is something that is bittersweet to talk about.”
The fans were encouraged to wave the flags during the pre-race concert, as well as while New York City police officer Danny Rodriguez sang “God Bless America” and the U.S. Army Infantry Division Band performed the national anthem. Wounded Warriors led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Fans also were encouraged to go silent on laps 9-11 to honor the victims, survivors and those that served in response to the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. The three laps of silence also was observed during the ABC telecast, and on the MRN radio broadcast.
It came, conveniently, during a caution, but inconveniently for a crash involving Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Denny Hamlin, each of whom was trying to race his way into the Chase.