Kevin Conway, driver of the No. 37 ExtenZe Ford and current leading candidate in the Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors, will have a little extra help on the pit box of the Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway today. ExtenZe Local Hero Brian Morace will be his Honorary Crew Chief atop the pit box for the Shelby American race.
At each and every race track, ExtenZe picks a local hero to have the race experience of a lifetime. According to Conway, this is one way that he and his team give back to the fans and the heroes in the local community, as well as call attention to heroes who might not get the recognition they deserve otherwise.
“The ExtenZe Local Hero program is something that’s very humbling to be a part of,” Conway said. “We wanted to find a way to reach out to local communities that we participate in weekly and honor someone who has gone to great lengths in the community and who has put others before themselves.”
“It gives them a pat on the back and acknowledges them in their own local community.”
This week’s ExtenZe Local Hero is Brian Morace, a 37-year-old from Las Vegas that rescued a mother and her son from a burning building. Even more poignant was the fact that the mother, who had mental health problems, had started the fire to kill herself and her six year old boy.
“It was pure instinct,” Morace said of his heroic act. “Being a father of three and knowing my family was in jeopardy also, it was just instinct. I knew I had to get this taken care of now.”
Morace was home on his lunch break when he heard a faint fire alarm and then began to smell smoke. He actually had to break the door down, where he found the woman’s face covered with soot and the small boy sitting in the middle of the floor.
“I grabbed the boy and flung him out to my wife who was standing outside the door,” Morace said. “Next thing you know, I picked the woman up and threw her out the door too.”
Morace determined that the fire was in the kitchen and immediately proceeded there to try to put it out. The fire department then arrived on the scene and took over the fire and rescue efforts.
“It was an unbelievable situation at the time,” Morace said. “I didn’t realize the magnitude of what I did and I went back to finish my lunch. I didn’t think of myself as a hero but thought if it would encourage others to help, I would tell my story and do this.”
Morace admitted that prior to this experience, he was not really a NASCAR fan. But now that he has had the ExtenZe Local Hero experience, he will be a race fan forever.
“I was not so much a race fan before this,” Morace said. “But I’m hooked and I will be a fan for life.”
Morace is indeed having the time of his life. He, along with Crew Chief Peter Sospenzo, will have the opportunity today to provide input from the pit box to driver Conway out on the track.
Will Conway listen to his Local Hero Honorary Crew Chief? “We do try to let them have a little bit of input,” Conway said. “But at the end of the day we try to give them an unforgettable experience; something that money can’t buy.”
“I just wish we could have more than one local hero per race,” Conway said. The driver also said that for him the Local Hero program puts racing in perspective. “We race but we’re trying to acknowledge true heroes.”
“To save a mother and a child from a burning building is pretty awesome,” Conway continued. “That’s what the ExtenZe’s Local Hero Program is all about.”
Conway, in his first appearance ever at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, will have to pull of some heroics of his own on race day. He will start deep in the field in the 39th position for the Shelby American Cup race.
Conway’s goal for his first season in the Cup Series is to win the Rookie of the Year honors and to stay in the top 35 in points. “If we do that, I think this whole ExtenZe racing team will have had a successful season,” Conway said.
For more information about ExtenZe Racing and their Local Hero Program or to nominate a local hero, visit www.ExtenZeRacing.com and click on the Hero page.
Photo Credit: Mary Jo Buchanan, Las Vegas Motor Speedway