The Frontstretch: Michael Waltrip, NASCAR, Swan Racing Come Together For Sandy Hook by Thomas Bowles -- Friday February 15, 2013

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An exciting partnership will have a fund designed to help Sandy Hook Elementary School front and center for this year’s Daytona 500.

It’s not often these days that a two-time Daytona 500 winner, a NASCAR CEO, an underdog team looking to stake its place in the sport and a small suburban town all have something in common. But on Valentine’s Day, they all came together to share the love for an exceptional cause.

Waltrip, attempting to make the Great American Race announced a special paint scheme Thursday designed to raise awareness for the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. The newly renumbered 26 Toyota he’ll drive will pay tribute to the twenty children and six adults killed in the tragic shooting December 14th, 2012 that shattered a quaint CT suburb with the most violent elementary school incident in American history. (The shooter, Adam Lanza along with his mother Nancy also perished.)

“Americans everywhere are heartbroken about the tragedy in Newtown, and Swan Racing is proud to join NASCAR and the United Way of Western Connecticut to help the community move forward,” said race team owner Brandon Davis, whose car will run No. 30 the rest of the year.

How they’ll draw attention to the program, besides the special Green & White car is through encouraging fans to text “Newtown” to 80888, a decal placed on not only their vehicle but Michael Waltrip Racing’s three entries, driven by Martin Truex, Jr., Clint Bowyer, and Mark Martin, respectively. Every fan that follows that direction will be giving a $10 donation to the cause, funding that will be used to help the community’s families — those who lost loved ones and others who need assistance in the healing process.

“One thing I can tell you for sure is that there will be a whole lot of people in Sandy Hook and Newtown rooting for Michael and the No. 26 car,” said Sandy Hook District Fire Chief Bill Halstead. “It will be something positive to rally around, and there will be smiles on faces that haven’t smiled in quite a while.”

The deal came about last week when NASCAR CEO Brian France, in working on ways to help victims of the tragedy worked out a deal through private meetings with several influential officials inside the Newtown community. In fact, the France family was so moved by their conversations, in-person visits and overall experience Brian’s wife, Amy, kicked off a week’s worth of donations with a hefty $50,000 contribution herself. That money will be matched by the NASCAR Foundation, just the beginning of an initiative all parties hope raises far more.

“Driving the No. 26 Sandy Hook School Support Fund Toyota is like nothing I have ever been part of in my NASCAR career,” Waltrip said. “It will be an emotional week knowing that we have the potential to do so much good for the Newtown community. I’m racing for a reason.”

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