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Drivers raise cancer awareness at track
Monday, October 28, 2013
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
More than 40 cancer survivors tossed unpleasant memories to the wind Saturday during hot laps around the track at the Martinsville Speedway.
“This was fantastic. I loved it,” Joanne Gardner of Martinsville said shortly after riding in a pink Chevrolet Camaro driven by Paul Menard, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver who currently drives the No. 27 Menard’s/NIBCO Chevrolet.
Menard and fellow drivers Jamie McMurray and Ryan “Rocket Man” Newman participated in the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” event that was made possible through a partnership of Chevrolet, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the speedway.
Hot lapping is a motorsport in which vehicles are driven around a race track without competing for a position or recording their performance.
That suited Gardner, a seven-year survivor who gratefully accepted the invitation to participate in Chevrolet’s mission to raise funds and create awareness of cancer patients, survivors and loved ones through its “Making Strides” initiative.
So far, the company and its dealers have raised more than $2 million to benefit the ACS, according to www.chevrolet.com.
Cancer survivors such as Gardner lapped the track in one of two pink Chevy Camaros or a blue Chevy Silverado truck, trimmed with huge pink ribbons.
Gardner said she considers “every day is a blessing,” and she strives to learn something new each day. On Saturday, she realized that “the movement of the car is not like it looks on camera,” she said.
Perhaps best of all, cancer was just about the farthest thing from her mind.
“This was fantastic, and Paul was a sweetie,” Gardner said. “I’m 71 years-old” and odds are, she will not have the opportunity “to do this again. I loved it.”
Joanne Davie, also of Martinsville, is a two-year cancer survivor who “wanted to be here with the other survivors and experience something new.” After taking a spin, she said “it was awesome ... very nice.”
Liz Harrington of Martinsville is a “two years and seven months” survivor, “but who’s counting,” she said, with a chuckle after she and her daughter, Ariel Grodensky, sped around the track with McMurray.
McMurray drives the No. 1 Chevrolet SS in the Sprint Cup Series for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. A week ago, he won the race at Talladega Superspeedway.
McMurray “was great. I had the Richard Petty Driving Experience,” Harrington said, and explained that those participants must wear a uniform, climb into the vehicle through the window and do other tasks just as a driver would do. “But this was better,” she said.
Grodensky said she thought speeds exceeded 90 miles per hour, and McMurray “was so sweet ... I think this means a lot.”
She was right.
Newman, a stock car driver who mans the No. 39 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, took a reporter on a turn in the Silverado.
“I think everybody enjoys it,” Newman said.
On Nov. 2 and 16, the company will contribute $10 to the American Cancer Society whenever someone takes a test drive at a Chevrolet dealership. People who bring a vehicle in for Chevrolet Certified Service in October or November can opt to contribute their eligible service rebate, and Chevrolet will match the contribution.
To learn more about the Making Strides initiative, visit MakingStridesWalk.org.