Storm disasters impact NASCAR drivers
The tornadoes and severe storms that have torn across the country this spring have forever altered the lives of thousands. They have greatly impacted many NASCAR competitors, too.
For many in the sport, it hit home in April when the first wave of storms hit Alabama as thousands of campers braced for the worst at Talladega Superspeedway. A week later, the state was devastated by a series of storms. Then tornadoes hit Joplin, Mo., and a lengthy slate of towns and cities across the country.
Jimmie Johnson recently expressed his feelings succintly via his Twitter account: “I feel so bad for all that have been affected this spring.”
Clint Bowyer, a native of Emporia, Kan., has been stunned by what he has witnessed in his native Midwest. He tries to sum it up, but like most, he finds the depth of the destruction to be somewhat overwhelming.
“It’s just terrible what’s happened back there,” Bowyer said Thursday. “Poor Joplin. Oh my God please, just stop. It’s unbelievable how they just keep getting hammered time after time. I have some good friends in Sedalia, Mo. Friends of my father's that lost his towing business. Yesterday evening it completely leveled and wiped out his business. It’s a horrible thing that’s been going on back there.
“They are going to need a lot of help getting things rebuilt and put back in place and it’s going to take a total effort from everybody in this country to do his part. I hope that everything works out for all of them guys. I hope that this weather is done for them, first and foremost. That’s what’s got to happen, is stop this weather so they can get things patched back up and at least get pointed in a direction.”
Jamie McMurray, who is from Joplin, says he no longer has any family in that area. Like everyone else, he struggles to come to grips with the images flashing across the news reports.
“My heart goes out to all the people that have been affected by the devastating Missouri tornado on May 22, especially in my hometown of Joplin,” he said. “It is difficult to put into words the emotions I have when I see the devastation and destruction that was caused by this storm.”
Ryan Newman jumped into action to help people with pets through his foundation, which works in part to protect animals. His group worked with IAMS Pet Food Corp. to take a truckload of pet food to Alabama as soon as they could.
“We packed up a semitruck. I did it myself with my big old tractor and packed up a semitruck full of pallets and shipped it off down there,” he said. “So, just doing what we can to make a difference. Fortunately from what I’ve been told, they’re in a good situation where they’ve had a lot of donations, it’s just a matter of getting it distributed down there.
“So I think a lot of the things that have been sent go to warehouses so that it can be distributed timely, so there’s not an influx with a bunch of dog food that people can’t use right away.”
Jennifer Jo Cobb had a personal take on the storms as well — she spent Wednesday riding out a storm in her basement in Kansas City. The Nationwide Series driver grew up in the area and is accustomed to severe weather, but says that times, and reactions, have changed.
She needed to be at the airport, but there were tornado warnings and sirens going off. She tweeted about it and got a quick response. She believes that the recent series of storms has made people more apt to heed warnings and take precautions when the sirens go off.
“It’s so neat to have such a bond with your hometown, like my airport was tweeting me back, they were like, ‘Be careful, Jen,’” she said Thursday. “... Then one of the air-traffic controllers, (his) wife said they had evacuated the air-traffic controllers tower, so I’m like, ‘Well, I’m not going to the airport then,’ and then I almost missed my flight.”
Cobb found herself getting involved in relief efforts after the last series of storms. Team member Mike Nemo took it upon himself to go to stores and gather supplies and drive down to Alabama to hand them out after those storms.
“There’s so many people that would want to do more to help, we just really don’t know what,” Cobb said. “I’m really proud of Nemo for packing up and going down.”
He drove down and stopped whenever he saw someone who needed help and asked them “What do you need?” One of the guys he stopped to help had lost his wife in the storms. When Nemo returned to Dover, he filmed a message of encouragement from Cobb to send as well.
“It’s definitely an unusual year for weather,” Cobb said. “We’ve been affected by it at the racetrack. I know we were worried about the fans in the infield at Talladega and a week later was when their storms hit, and in Iowa the weather was very ominous, and it’s definitely a year where everyone’s been affected by it. And so it’s like all you can do is really be as smart as you can about it and pray for those and just look for ways to reach out and help.”