News & Media


Autism outreach runs deep within NASCAR family

June 01, 2013, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com

Denny Hamlin

Many are affected, but all pitch in to effort of spreading awareness

DOVER, Del. -- Race sponsorship for this weekend’s FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks is especially near to NASCAR’s heart and an example of what the sport’s commitment to a cause can do.

With nominations for the 2013 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award due by June 14 (submit them at NASCAR.com/foundation) the 2012 winner Lorri Unumb is at Dover International Speedway this weekend on behalf of Autism Speaks explaining what a difference NASCAR and this award can make to an organization.

“It’s hard for me to express actually the impact the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award has had on my life,’’ Unumb said. “My husband and I founded the Autism Academy of South Carolina, which was the recipient of a $100,000 charitable donation from the NASCAR Foundation.

“So just the financial impact alone has been incredible but more than that, I’ve had a continuing relationship with NASCAR and the NASCAR Foundation,’’ continued Unumb, whose 12-year son Ryan has autism.

"It just means so much to the autism community."

-- NASCAR on FOX coordinating producer Artie Kempner

“That’s why I’m here today. The platform it has raised for Autism has been incredible. I really encourage other people to apply for it.’’

NASCAR’s commitment to autism awareness includes an official partnership with Autism Speaks. NASCAR Chairman Brian France and his wife, Amy, co-chaired the “Speeding for a Cure Gala” that benefitted the organization earlier this year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

And while the familiar blue puzzle piece logo for Autism Speaks will be prominently displayed around the race track this weekend, it is an important cause to many in the garage all year long.

The condition -- which affects one in 88 children -- has directly affected many associated with the sport, including driver Jamie McMurray whose niece has autism.  NASCAR on FOX coordinating producer Artie Kempner has a teenage son with autism, who will be attending the race Sunday.

“He is so excited about it,’’ Kempner said. “This partnership with Dover Motorsports and Autism came together in 2007 and now FedEx came on board the last three years and it just means so much to the autism community.’’

“The awareness is that much greater because of that. Autism is not a foreign word to people now. You’ve got families that don’t feel it’s a hopeless situation as it was considered 15 years ago.

“To be involved with NASCAR is an incredible opportunity because the NASCAR community gets behind what the NASCAR drivers get behind and drivers like Jamie and Hermie and Elliott Sadler, who are impacted.

“I’m just tickled we’re talking about autism on a great NASCAR weekend.’’

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