Heavy Hearts and Heroes Are Real Story at Texas Motor Speedway

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer INovember 8, 2009

While Kyle Busch attempts to win all three races in a weekend and Jimmie Johnson continues to solidify his historic fourth championship in a row run at Texas Motor Speedway, hearts will be heavy and heroes will be on everyone's mind.

Just 178 miles south of the speedway, a massacre took place this week at Fort Hood.  A deranged Army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Malik, fired on his comrades, killing thirteen and injuring twenty-eight.

"This was a kick in the gut," General George Casey, the Army Chief of Staff said.  His words no doubt summarized the feelings of Americans across the country.

In spite of the carnage, heroes emerged.  One of the most prominent has turned out to be a civilian police woman, Officer Kimberly Munley, who shot Malik four times in spite of being shot by him several times, with wounds to her legs and wrist.

"She walked up and basically engaged him," base commander at Fort Hood Lt. General Robert Cone said.  "I think, certainly, this could have been far worse."

President Obama ordered that flags be flown at half staff on all federal buildings until next Wednesday, Veteran's Day, in tribute to the victims.

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"We don't know all the answers yet," said Obama, who intends to attend the memorial service at the base. "What we do know there are families, friends, and an entire nation grieving right now."

While the President leads the nation in mourning, Eddie Gossage, President of Texas Motor Speedway, struggled with how to best handle the tragedy during the race weekend.

One of the ways the track will do so is to have a moment of silence prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup race, in remembrance of the fallen soldiers.

All Texas Motor Speedway employees will also wear black armbands during the race to remember those affected.  Gossage wanted every one of his staff to do so, saying  poignantly, "NASCAR fans bleed red, white and blue."

Along with the Army logo, a remembrance has been painted on the front stretch grass of the speedway.  The remembrance reads, "God bless our Fort Hood troops."

NASCAR, as well as its drivers, teams and race tracks, have strong ties to the military, with those serving the country as a major part of the sport's fan base.  NASCAR CEO Brian France affirmed this unique relationship.

"Our fans are the people who go out and win wars for this country," France said.

Ryan Newman, whose car is sponsored by the U.S. Army, was deeply affected by the tragedy.  "To be here, in the big picture, think about everybody down in Fort Hood with the U.S. Army and their families that are going through some very difficult times," Newman said.

"Big picture here," Newman continued, "We’re racing in Texas but our thoughts and prayers go out to other places as well.”

Newman's boss and team owner Tony Stewart also expressed deep feelings about the tragedy. He has grown to know and appreciate the military, especially the Army, through his teammate's Army sponsorship.

"Obviously, that's something nobody would have dreamed could happen, but it did," Stewart said. "You just think about all the families and wish them the best."

With the tragedy at Fort Hood looming large, the drama of the Cup race, whoever stands in victory lane, is truly put in perspective. 

There are more important things in life, even in a die-hard NASCAR fan's life, than who is wearing the Stetson hat and firing off the pistols in celebration at the end of the Dickies 500.

So, this race weekend, instead of focusing on those four most famous words in racing, let us focus on these four words instead.

God bless our soldiers.  God bless their families.  God bless the U.S.A.

Photo Credit: Raedle/Getty

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