NASCAR promotes breast cancer awareness
by Bran Strickland
Oct 07, 2012 | 5075 views |  0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Friday at the Talladega Superspeedway, the car and crew of Greg Biffle appear in a pink theme for breast cancer awareness. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Friday at the Talladega Superspeedway, the car and crew of Greg Biffle appear in a pink theme for breast cancer awareness. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
TALLADEGA — Imagine Talladega Superspeedway’s grandstands and sweeping infield filled with nothing but women.

Now imagine Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium the same.

That still wouldn’t touch the estimated 288,130 women diagnosed with both invasive and non-invasive breast cancer in 2011, according to the American Cancer Society.

While the stands will be co-ed today when the green flag drops on the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500, it will have a pink hue to shed light on October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. From the Talladega logo at the start-finish line to some of the cars racing around the track, drivers have stepped up to bring the disease to the forefront.

It’s about awareness. I’m honored to help.

That’s what first comes out of mouths of drivers like Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Trevor Bayne, all who will sport specialized pink paint schemes on their cars today.

But to Mobile native Cale Gale, a rookie in the Camping World Truck Series, it’s about education as much as anything. That’s because breast cancer doesn’t have one encompassing entity overseeing research, treatment or assistance in coping with the disease. From the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and National Breast Cancer Foundation down to smaller grass-roots organizations, they all do their part. Gale, 27, picked one of the lesser-known groups, but he said he felt like it spoke to him.

For the month of October, Gale partnered with the Young Survivors Coalition, a group that helps pre-menopausal women deal with the disease. The group says more than 250,000 women living in the U.S. were diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40 or younger and more than 13,000 more will be diagnosed this year.

“You just don’t think about it happening that young,” Cale said. “I had no idea. I didn’t even know men could get it.”

Estimates by the American Cancer Society in 2010 put the number for men at just less than 2,000 new cases, but it’s primarily a disease that impacts women.

And while that number of men is small, the number of female fans in NASCAR isn’t. Multiple studies put that proportion at about 40 percent, a figure that’s held true back to the 1980s.

What is new, however, is not only the national awareness for breast cancer, but promotion of that awareness through major league sports. With pink cleats, gloves and tape, it’s prevalent in the NFL, which calls its campaign “A Crucial Catch.”

NASCAR’s involvement is more driver-based, something Talladega Superspeedway chairman Grant Lynch said he saw begin to rise in his sport 10 years ago.

“You’ve seen more and more drivers actually started their own charitable foundations to give back to various causes, awareness,” he said. “… they really do a tremendous amount.”

And Lynch’s bunch does, too.

When NASCAR isn’t in town, Talladega Superspeedway has partnered with organizations such as the March of Dimes and Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind; less than a month ago it hosted a half-marathon that supported prostate cancer research.

But with the alteration of the NASCAR schedule, moving Talladega Superspeedway’s race up three weekends on the calendar from last year, Lynch and Co. are at the forefront.

Even if things aren’t their normal colors.

“If we can bring awareness and help fund research then I’ll drive a pink car all day long,” Bowyer said.

Bran Strickland is the assistant managing editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3590 or follow him on Twitter @bran_strickland

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