NASCAR races to the rescue of storm victims
by Gary Hanner
May 04, 2011 | 4595 views |  1 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don Angel is a driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr. He helps unload a trailer load of supplies for tornado victims in St. Clair County. The supplies were unloaded at the old 84 Lumber in Pell City. Bob Crisp/The Daily Home
Don Angel is a driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr. He helps unload a trailer load of supplies for tornado victims in St. Clair County. The supplies were unloaded at the old 84 Lumber in Pell City. Bob Crisp/The Daily Home
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ST. CLAIR COUNTY — On the racetrack once a week, NASCAR drivers turn up the heat to get to the top. Be number one. Win the race.

But in the aftermath of one of the most devastating tornadoes to ever slam Alabama, NASCAR raced to the rescue for those victims in St. Clair County, thanks to former Pell Citian Danielle Fields Frye.

Late last Thursday, Frye was watching all the news reports of the damaging tornadoes in Alabama from her home in Mooresville, N.C. While they were showing the damage of the larger cities like Tuscaloosa and Cullman, Frye noticed nothing was being said about St. Clair County and her hometown of Pell City.

“I was just shocked and saddened, along with the rest of country, by all of the stories and images coming out of Alabama,” Frye said. “I wanted to help but didn't know how or in what way. I sent about three e-mails to my husband, Jay, who was in Richmond, Va., for the NASCAR race with his team Red Bull Racing. I asked him about the ways to try and help, gather supplies, etc.”

Frye said the next day, her husband made calls to Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and Richard Childress Racing and they all immediately jumped on board, pledging to help.

“Hendrick Motorsports and Red Bull Racing offered to send down an 18-wheel transporter,” she said. “Motor Racing Network, who I have worked for since 2003, started getting the word out, and by Monday we had donations from all those teams, MRN, Victory Junction Gang Camp and our home church in Mooresville, Williamsons Chapel UMC.”

Frye said the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation raised more than $5,000 to help with children's items, such as baby food, socks, underwear, diapers, wipes, etc.

“About 16 pallets of water and soda, canned goods, baby/children's items, coolers, a generator, clothes, cleaning items and much more were loaded and packed onto these trucks,” she said. “It is so incredibly inspiring to have everyone come together to offer assistance in some way to all the people here affected by this. Most everyone knows the larger cities, like Tuscaloosa, Cullman, were devastated but so many small towns, communities, were equally affected and they too need help, lots of help. You hear all the stories and see the pictures and it's just heartbreaking. To know that all these supplies might give someone hope is a reward in itself.”

The two 18-wheel transporters left at 5:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday and arrived at the old 84 Lumber in Pell City, shortly after noon — 375 miles.

As they pulled into the designated area, Frye was waiting and watching. She couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.

“I just wanted to make sure my county was not forgotten,” Frye said. “I am just so proud.”

It is fitting to know that the driver of the Red Bull Racing rig is nicknamed “Bandit.”

“I was sort of West-Bound and down,” Gail ‘Bandit’ Wilson said. “It has been real exciting. I have had a lot of comments from the other truckers as we made our way to Alabama. They wanted to know where we were going and once we told them, they said, ‘Oh my goodness.’ It’s great to be able to help out. The more we saw on television back home, the more we knew how bad it was.”

Frye’s mother, Brenda Fields, was proud of her daughter and of the NASCAR family.

“I think this is just fantastic,” Fields said. “People that you don’t know who care about people in general. It is such a blessing.”

Frye’s father, Lawrence Fields, said he is proud NASCAR stepped up.

“With the organization Danielle gave them, it was really something big,” Fields said. “That’s the way NASCAR is, they have big hearts.”

Contact Gary Hanner at ghanner@thestclairtimes.com.