A car owned by Swan Racing, which aims to raise money for the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, qualified Thursday for Florida’s Daytona 500, the biggest and the first NASCAR race of the season.
A Toyota painted green and white, the colors of Sandy Hook Elementary, and bearing the number 26 in honor of the 26 victims of the Newtown massacre, will be driven Sunday by Michael Waltrip, who has won at Daytona twice.
“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 Swan Racing owner Brandon Davis in a statement.
The tribute car, one of 43 competing in Sunday’s race, will also feature a “call-to-action” decal encouraging the NASCAR community to make $10 donations to the Sandy Hook Support Fund by texting NEWTOWN to 80888. The fund aims to provide immediate financial and mental health needs for people impacted by the events of Dec. 14.
Swan Racing spokesman Randy Poston said the idea to honor Newtown at Daytona came from a former resident of Newtown living in Daytona, Fla., who contacted the Daytona 500 organizers. They, in turn, contacted NASCAR, which contacted Swan Racing, Poston said.
Davis responded, “‘There is nothing to think about, we will do it,’” Poston said.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France, who has recently visited Newtown, said he and his wife Amy would donate $50,000 to the fund, and that donation will be matched by the NASCAR Foundation.
Two NASCAR sponsors, Nutrition53 and Widow Wax, say they will donate a percentage of the money in sales they make next week to the Sandy Hook fund.