The FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks delivers
It’s been a couple of weeks since the “FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks,” but we’re still feeling the love from our friends in NASCAR community. The race weekend, May 13-15, was an overwhelming success thanks to our partners at FedEx, Dover International Speedway and Dollar General. Here’s a recap in case you missed all of the excitement on TV.
On Friday, May 13, Autism Speaks rolled into Dover International Speedway ready to raise funds and spread autism awareness. Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr kicked off the day with a live interview on the SiriusXM radio show “The Morning Drive.” Roithmayr and host Mike Bagley discussed Sunday’s Sprint Series race and the ways NASCAR fans can help raise autism awareness. Later in the day, Mark was joined by FedEx No. 11 Toyota driver Denny Hamlin for a press conference at the speedway’s media center. In addition to featuring a special Autism Speaks puzzle piece logo schemed car, FedEx would donate $100,000 Autism Speaks if Hamlin won the race. Following the press conference, Red Horse Racing Competition Director Terry Cook treated everyone to a tour of the truck series team’s trailer. Terry and his wife are wonderful autism advocates within NASCAR community. A special thanks to Terry and the Red Horse Racing team for featuring theAutism Speaks puzzle piece logo on the hood of their No. 17 truck.
Saturday began with another Mark Roithmayr radio interview on SiriusXM radio, followed by a check presentation ceremony with our friends at Dollar General prior to the start of the Nationwide Series race. Rick Dreiling, CEO of Dollar General, Reed Sorenson, driver of the Dollar General No. 32 Chevy and his crew chief Trent Owens, who is a parent and autism advocate, presented Autism Speaks with a check for an amazing $1,193,256. In an effort to raise funds for the autism community, in April, Dollar General partnered with Autism Speaks for a month long fundraising campaign and Reed’s No. 32 Chevy was adorned with theAutism Speaks puzzle piece logo, helping to spread autism awareness from racetrack-to-racetrack throughout Autism Awareness Month. Late Saturday afternoon, Jacob Boenizi, a special guest of FedEx and Autism Speaks arrived in Dover. After his mom posted o nAutism Speaks’ Facebook page that Jacob, an 11 year old on the spectrum from Mesa, AZ, was a huge NASCAR and Denny Hamlin fan, he was invited by FedEx to serve as the Grand Marshal for Sunday’s Sprint Series race.
Sunday…Sunday…Sunday. Sprint Cup Series race day! All of the families who were guests of Autism Speaks received a special treat courtesy of FedEx. They met with driver Denny Hamlin in the FedEx suite prior to the start of the race. Denny took time out of his busy schedule to sign autographs and take pictures with all of the kids, including his biggest fan, Jacob. In addition to hanging out with Denny, Jacob went on a tour of pit row and met NFL legend Joe Gibbs. Shortly thereafter, Denny joined Mark Roithmayr for a live pre-race interview on the SPEED channel to talk about NASCAR’s commitment to autism awareness. While walking back from the interview, it was wonderful to see almost every car lined up in pit row featuring an Autism Speaks puzzle piece logo — a heartfelt show of support from the NASCAR community.
Time for the start of the big race. Jacob joined Mark onstage for driver the introductions, where they met NASCAR hall of famer Bobby Allison, and greeted the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Denny Hamlin also presented Autism Speaks with a check for $50,000 from FedEx to goes towards vital research and advocacy initiatives. As grand marshal, Jacob was given the special honor of announcing “gentleman start your engines” prior to the start of the race. Standing before thousands of fans and on live national television, the young fan from Mesa nailed it, spurring a huge ovation from crowd. It was truly an inspiring moment for everyone in attendance to hear Jacob says those words with such determination and confidence. He was the perfect ambassador for the autism community. Be sure to see for yourself:
Although Denny Hamlin didn’t win (Matt Kenseth finished first), the Sprint Cup Series race was a huge success thanks to FedEx, Dover International Speedway and all of our friends at NASCAR who worked hard throughout the weekend to bring attention to the needs of families and individuals affected by autism. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, a message of understanding and hope prevailed in Doverand was broadcasted by FOX on televisions across the country. In addition, a young NASCAR fan on the spectrum was given the experience of a lifetime. You couldn’t ask for a better finish when the checkered flag finally waved, signaling the end of a memorable weekend.
We snapped plenty of pictures from the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks. To view them, visit the Autism Speaks Facebook page.