Stephanie Pell stopped for a moment in front of a freshly painted pit wall at Charlotte Motor Speedway. As the pink paint dried in the sun, Pell’s eyes filled with tears at the thought of the message she wanted to share with those battling breast cancer.
“You take it just one day at a time,” Pell said. “And I always said to my children: don’t give up.”
Pell’s next line, however, did not refer to her own journey as a breast cancer survivor. Instead, she spoke about her 16-year-old son, Mason Bradley, who wrote a letter to NASCAR Cup driver Kurt Busch in 2019 that had an impact across the industry.
Bradley’s letter suggested that Busch run with pink mosquito nets in his No.1 Chevrolet car to raise awareness about the fight against breast cancer and recognize survivors like his mother. Busch announced on Tuesday that Bradley’s suggestion would come true. Not only will Busch’s car use the net, but all Cup cars will use a hot pink window net for the playoff race at the Charlotte Roval on October 10.
“It was his love for the Monster car and for me as a favorite driver I went to work,” Busch said. “I asked NASCAR about it, I asked the track, and then we had to get the window nets certified.”
“It’s been a process, but I had so much fun going through it,” Busch continued. “I felt the love of family and everyone in the world of breast cancer.”
As part of Busch’s desire to do his part to support breast cancer research, the drivers will sign the nets that will be auctioned through the NASCAR Foundation, with the proceeds going to research and treatment organizations. .
NASCAR Xfinity driver Daniel Hemric joined Busch to support the cause on Tuesday. The drivers took part in the annual Paint Pit Wall Pink event at Charlotte Motor Speedway with track chairman Greg Walter and dozens of people affected by the disease.
Hemric explained that his mother is a breast cancer survivor and his wife’s cousin has had a double mastectomy in the past year and, thanks to aggressive treatment, is now cancer free. The driver helped paint the wall with his wife, Kenzie Hemric, and their 17 month old daughter, Rhen. He said the event “hit home” for several reasons.
“It’s one thing to have experiences, but then to have a little girl of your own, you never know what she’s going to face in life,” Hemric said. “… If she can be a part of that not only now, but later, I hope that she (she) will take the necessary steps for early prevention down the road if it does.” No better time to start than now.
Hemric is a full time driver for Joe Gibbs Racing who recently announced an agreement to drive for Kaulig Racing next season. He helped unveil the pink car that will survey the grounds ahead of the Drive for the Cure 250 Xfinity race in Charlotte, and presented a race flag to breast cancer survivor Jennifer Grady, who spoke to the group about the importance early detection and regular screening. .
Hemric also credited Busch for the legwork required to gain approval from the NASCAR and Cup teams to run the pink window netting for the initiative called “Window of Hope.” Hemric texted his team manager after the announcement asking if the net could also be used in their team’s car.
Busch said the Pink Net’s approval process took him to Daytona Beach, Fla., To pitch the idea to NASCAR CEO Jim France and NASCAR Senior Advisor Mike Helton. Once Busch received the approval, he said he worked with Speedway Motorsports president Marcus Smith while awaiting certification from the NASCAR safety team. Then the request was sent to the teams.
“Every team leader is always concerned about the weight and I know that this window net is a little a little heavier (due to the tinting) and there is an aerodynamic benefit and downside to window nets, ”said Busch. “I thought to myself that here at Roval we are in a road race, we should all try to jump in the spirit together, so I tried to find the easier way.”
Busch, an industry veteran competing for Chip Ganassi Racing, will move to 23XI Racing next season. He won his 750th career Cup start last weekend in Las Vegas and said the industry has rallied around the idea of the pink net despite the process being blocked due to the pandemic. Busch said he hopes to see the pink net adopted by all series and forms of motorsport for October races in the years to come.
“One small race at a time,” said Busch.
The latest announcement didn’t seem small to Bradley, however.
“It amazes me that this is really happening,” he said.
Bradley included a hand-drawn image of the No.1 car in the letter he sent Busch two years ago. He reiterated that the idea was inspired by his mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer after the birth of her daughter and became a survivor in 2010.
“I never really got it until I was older, but she was a single mom who was going through this and raising two kids,” Bradley said. “She’s my heroine. I just wanted to give back to her and everyone who is going through this. “
Pell, thinking of the importance of his own trip that will lead to an exhibition to promote breast cancer awareness in NASCAR, credited his son’s persistence. His message could apply to many.
“(Before) the only letter that was actually followed, there were a hundred more before that,” Pell said. “And if Mason gets something out of it, it’s never to give up, because look at what can happen.”
This story was originally published September 28, 2021 4:06 pm.