At Dover, NASCAR benefits Autism Speaks

The name of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway - the Autism Speaks 400 - has special meaning for driver Elliott Sadler and his family.

Elliott's older brother Hermie has a daughter, Halie Dru, who was found to have autism when she was 2 years old.

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For Elliott Sadler, the Autism Speaks 400 is personal. He helps his brother, who has an autistic daughter, run a foundation.

Over the last seven years, the Hermie and Elliott Sadler Foundation (www.sadlerfoundation.org) has worked to raise money and awareness of the condition. The brain disorder inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges.

Autism-spectrum disorders have been diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to call autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.

"We always try to do as much as we can to help the folks at Dover promote this race and the cause," Elliott Sadler said.

"I think it's amazing that a racetrack has taken the name to its race and is now using it to help promote awareness for a good cause. I wish more tracks would get behind programs like this. I know that racetracks use their naming rights as a source of revenue . . . but it seems like the folks at Dover have found a way to get the best of both worlds by choosing a cause and finding corporate partners that support the cause."

Founded in 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, grandparents of a child with autism, Autism Speaks (www.AutismSpeaks.org) is the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization. The group's mission is to fund studies for the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism.

"It is essential to get our message of awareness, compassion and hope out to the NASCAR community, which includes many individuals and families affected by autism," said Peter Bell, executive vice president of Autism Speaks.

The Sadlers, whose initial fund-raising efforts began in 2000 with charity basketball games for schools in their hometown of Emporia, Va., have expanded their efforts to research for autism and breast cancer. Much of the funding comes from their extended NASCAR family, with fans snapping up autographed racing items such as Elliott's helmet or the hood of the car he drove at Dover last season.

At the Monster Mile, the signature Autism Speaks blue puzzle-piece logo will be affixed to at least 30 vehicles scheduled to compete in the three races this weekend. The track's souvenir stands will sell pins, with a portion of the $7 sale price benefiting Autism Speaks.

 


If You Go

The Track: Dover International Speedway is north of Dover on Route 13, about 70 miles from Philadelphia. Take I-95 south to I-495 south, exit 1. Take Route 1 south, exiting at North Dover, then left on U.S. Route 13 south.

Today's on-track events: Camping World Truck Series qualifying, 10:10 a.m.; Sprint Cup Series practice, 11:30 a.m.; Nationwide Series practice, 1:10 p.m.; Sprint Cup Series qualifying, 3:10 p.m.; AAA Insurance 200 Camping World Series race, 5 p.m.

Television: Camping World Truck Series qualifying (SPEED, 10 a.m.); Sprint Cup Series practice (SPEED, 11:30 a.m.); Nationwide Series practice (SPEED, 1 p.m.); Sprint Cup Series qualifying (SPEED, 3 p.m.); AAA Insurance 200 Camping World Series race (SPEED, tape delay, 8:30 p.m.).

Tickets: 1-800-441-7223 or check the track's Web site at www.DoverSpeedway.com

- Pete Schnatz


Helping the Cause

These Sprint Cup cars will carry the Autism Speaks blue puzzle-piece logo in Sunday's Autism Speaks 400:

Casey Mears, No. 07 Chevrolet

Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Dodge

Max Papis, No. 13 Toyota

Tony Stewart No. 14 Chevrolet

Elliott Sadler, No. 19 Dodge

Jamie McMurray, No. 26 Ford

Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Chevrolet

Jeff Burton, No. 31 Chevrolet

Clint Bowyer, No. 33 Chevrolet

Ryan Newman, No. 39 Chevrolet

Reed Sorenson, No. 43 Dodge

A.J. Allmendinger, No. 44 Dodge

Regan Smith, No. 78 Chevrolet

Bobby Labonte, No. 96 Ford

Paul Menard, No. 98 Ford