Toyota teams up with Special Olympics at Auto Club Speedway

Sprint Cup drivers Carl Edwards (left) and David Ragan (right) enjoy a moment with Special Olympians at Auto Club Speedway.

©2015 Lesley Ann Miller

NASCAR isn’t Toyota’s only sporting interest in Southern California.

The automaker is expanding its 30-year relationship with Special Olympics to become the Official Automotive Partner of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, which take place July 25-Aug. 2 in Southern California.

It’s a huge undertaking with 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches from 177 countries represented.

And Toyota is all-in for this event, providing 400 vehicles for the event.

"First of all, it’s the right thing to do at the end of the day," said Ed Laukes, the vice president of marketing communications and motorsports, service, parts and accessory sales and marketing for Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., and a member of Toyota Racing Development’s board of directors.

"We’re involved in a lot of different competitive environments around the United States and also around the world," said Laukes. "And Special Olympics is obviously near and dear to everyone’s heart. When we found out that the games were coming to Los Angeles, and (since) this is our headquarters for our sales and marketing and finance groups, it was a perfect fit for us."

It’s a perfect fit for the Special Olympians, too.

"It’s really exciting. I get to meet people from all over the world," said Terra Clendening, one of the 2015 World Games Global Messengers and a Special Olympics athlete who competes track, bocce, field hockey and bowling.

Clendening and other Special Olympics representatives were at Auto Club Speedway Saturday morning to join with Toyota officials to promote the summer event.

"We are so grateful for their support," Danielle Yango, senior director of public relations for Special Olympics, said of Toyota’s efforts. "They’ve been a longtime supporter of Special Olympics of Southern California, and they’re activating their dealers across the country and they’re providing us vehicles. They’re just doing a lot for us."

Driver Clint Bowyer gets in on the Special Olympics fun at Auto Club Speedway.