Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Faith on the Frontstretch: NASCAR Drivers Make Special Moments That Bless Fans

Children's names on Carl Edward's No. 19 car at Dover.
Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs  
by Beth Reinke

“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” ~ Hebrews 12:1b

Carl Edwards had a million reasons to win Sunday’s Cup race at Dover. His sponsor, STANLEY, pledged to donate $1 million to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through the Ace Hardware Foundation – if Edwards finished the day in Victory Lane.

The No. 19 car ran a special paint scheme featuring the names of young patients and their respective diagnoses. Four of those kids served as “Honorary Crew Members” of the team throughout the Dover race weekend, getting to do all kinds of fun stuff.

His JGR Toyota ran in the top 10 for most of the race, and even led 27 laps, so it looked like Edwards might pull off the win. But after restarting third late in the event, a little tap from Kyle Larson sent Edwards hard into the inside wall, dashing his hopes of winning the payout for the kids.

“We’ll just chalk it up to racing, but the hard part is we felt like we were going to win that million bucks for those kids, and I felt like we could win this race,” Edwards said.

The kids were still winners though, as Edwards and representatives from STANLEY and the Ace Hardware Foundation presented a $100,000 donation to the CMN Hospitals. And last week, Edwards and his crew spent a day with sick children at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, playing games and giving the kids and staff a pit stop demonstration.
This is just one example of how NASCAR drivers, teams and sponsors use their time and funds to help people.

Most NASCAR drivers bless others with snippets of their time during the week, and even on race weekends. If you’ve ever watched a driver walk through the garage area, it’s normally not a smooth process. He or she is interrupted over and over again by fans asking for autographs or photos. What takes a driver a few seconds to do – sign a cap and pose for a snapshot – becomes a lifelong memory for a fan.

While serving as photographer for Skirts and Scuffs at Dover last weekend, I enjoyed watching this process over and over. Erik Jones posed for a photo with a young girl attending her first race. Matt DiBenedetto bent down to sign an autograph for a little boy. Edwards chatted with an elderly veteran, then had his picture taken with him.

Even retired legends, like Bobby Allison, still serve the race fans. Caught in a downpour, I ducked into a tent in the Truck garage to wait out the deluge. Allison had taken cover there, too, and was talking with four fans ranging in ages from a teen to a senior. They took turns taking selfies with him, so I snapped a shot of all five men to email to them later. Watching the joyful grins on the fellows’ faces, it warmed my heart to see what Allison’s small gesture meant to these guys. And Mr. Allison seemed to enjoy it just as much.

Bobby Allison chats with a fan at Dover, May 2016.
Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs
We may not be celebrities who can give autographs, and we may not have oodles of money to dole out to deserving charities, but you and I can still do small things that bring joy to others. And if we’re Jesus followers, the desire to do good deeds isn’t an option; it’s a natural extension of our faith.

Don’t worry about the size of your good deeds though. Just like a driver's autograph and a quick selfie mean a lot to a fan, your kind words spoken in passing can lift up someone who’s feeling rotten. What seems like a small, insignificant deed to you may be a huge blessing to the recipient.

As Galatians 6:9 says, let’s not become weary in doing good. So, how can you bless someone today?

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. ~ James 2:14a, 17 (NIV)
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“Faith on the Frontstretch” explores the role of faith in motorsports and runs every 1st & 3rd Wednesday of the month during the NASCAR season. Follow Beth on twitter at @bbreinke.

Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for NASCAR fans. Or you can purchase the book in paperback & ebook here.

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