This Thursday, Richmond International Raceway will play host to the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown, a charity late model race combining several top NASCAR stars and the top late model racers in Hamlin's native Virgina. Proceeds from the Showdown, which will air live beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern on SPEED, will benefit the Denny Hamlin Foundation. Among the NASCAR drivers competing in the race, in addition to Hamlin himself, are Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne, Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano, two-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, former Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip, Nationwide Series star Aric Almirola, extreme sports legend Travis Pastrana, and NASCAR on SPEED personality and driver Hermie Sadler.
In just over two months, many of those same drivers are also expected to be part of a field of more than two-dozen racing superstars who will head to Stewart's Eldora Speedway in Rossburgh, OH, compete in the Prelude to the Dream. Since 2005, the dirt late model event has raised funds through ticket sales and - beginning in 2007 - HBO Pay-Per View purchases for such causes as Kyle Petty's Victory Junction Gang Camp for Kids, Wounded Warriors, and The Fisher House. Last season, competitors were divided into teams of four and raced on behalf of four children's hospitals, a format that will carry over to this year's race.
Events like Hamlin's and Stewart's - which is scheduled for June 8 - are but two illustrations of the ever-present giving heart of NASCAR and it's competitors.
Virtually every star driver, as well as the sanctioning body itself, has a foundation that focuses on a particular cause near and dear to them. Hamlin's foundation raises funds for individuals and families affected by cystic fibrosis. Ryan and Krissie Newman, meanwhile, work on behalf of animals and outdoors preservation. Several drivers, such as Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr., focus on children, while Stewart's foundation deals in large part with supporting injured racers and their families.
Outside of work with their own foundations, the drivers give their time to raise money and raise awarness for a variety of causes or projects within communities. Often, they also give their time just to raise spirits. Make-A-Wish Foundation has worked prominently with the sport's stars, with Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. each granting more than 200 wishes for terminally ill children.
That giving spirit doesn't stop with the drivers, though. Race fans are generally a giving bunch as well, and not just to the charity of their respective hero. A fan who shows up at a track without one of the essentials - generally sunscreen or a pair of earplugs - can almost be certain that he or she will find someone seated nearby, often wearing a rival driver's appearal, who's more than happy to help them out. If one's cooler runs shy of ice, or the batteries in their scanner run short of juice, they too will more than likely come across someone who has what they need and gives it with a smile.
That's just the way the NASCAR community operates. For a sport that is more competitive than any other, it is as tight-knit a collection of people - from drivers to crew members to officials to fans - as one will find. To be certain, there are the occasional petty squbbles, but at the end of the day, big-time stock car racing is simply a giant, weekly family reunion.
And that family is as giving and caring, both inside and outside the racing community, as families come.
Visit Jayski.com's Charities page for an extensive list of NASCAR-related foundations and causes, located on the left-hand side of the page.