Speedway Children's Charities' NASCAR Driver Auction raises $145,720;

Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart tops the list at $6,400


             The annual Las Vegas Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities NASCAR Driver Auction, held Thursday, Feb. 27, at Sam's Town Hotel & Gambling Hall raised $145,720 for the children of Las Vegas and southern Nevada, eclipsing last year's record of $89,000.

            All 43 NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers expected to compete in the March 2 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 and the top 20 NASCAR Busch Series drivers entered in the March 1 Sam's Town 300 were auctioned off to the highest bidder.  Winning bidders on Winston Cup drivers earned the right to ride around the track in a convertible with their driver during pre-race festivities.  Winners of Busch Series drivers received a "meet 'n' greet" with their favorite.  Many drivers enhanced their auctions by adding autographed hats, t-shirts and honorary pit crew memberships.

            "We set a goal of $145,720 for this auction at last month's strategic planning session after we raised $89,000 last year," said Las Vegas Chapter Chairman Keith DeRiso.  "To meet and exceed our goal is spectacular, considering the tight economy.  The NASCAR drivers who participated and the fans that attended our auction put us over the top, and every dollar raised goes to the needy children in this area.

            "Two years ago, the auction raised $33,000.  Last year, we shattered that mark and this year's total of $145,720 certainly raises the bar for next year."

            NASCAR drivers who appeared at the auction included 2002 Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart, Jimmy Spencer, 2002 Busch Series champion Greg Biffle, Dave Blaney, Kurt Busch, 1994 Busch Series champion David Green, Mike Wallace, Scott Riggs, Brian Vickers, Damon Lusk, Scott Wimmer, Bobby Hamilton Jr. and Chase Montgomery.  Also making an appearance (which turned into a performance) was Mickey Jones of Home Improvement TV show fame.

            The top five auction bids: 1. Tony Stewart ($6,400), 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($6,250), 3. Jeff Gordon and Kyle Petty tied ($5,500), and 5. Bill Elliott ($3,500).

            Donated silent auction items included an autographed driver uniform worn by pop music star Britney Spears during her visit to the Las Vegas Richard Petty Driving Experience, a helmet autographed by the Coca-Cola Family of Drivers, four pieces of drag racing art by Kenny Youngblood, autographed items from the final episode of the Home Improvement TV show, NASCAR pit crew shirts and sheetmetal.

The evening included a concert by country music artist Randy Anderson (filling in for Chris Chitsey, who was stuck in Texas due to snow) and an appearance by the USAF Thunderbirds.

In 2002, the Las Vegas Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities distributed  $228,000 to 31 local causes (including St. Jude's Chidren's Ranch, Make-A-Wish Foundation and Amerindian) which directly impact the lives of children in the Las Vegas and southern Nevada region at its annual Christmas Tree Lighting and Grant Distribution Ceremony.

            Speedway Children's Charities (www.speedwaycharities.org) is a non-profit foundation based in Charlotte, N.C. that distributes funds to charities and foundations providing medical, emotional and social services to children in need.  Founded in 1984 by O. Bruton Smith, chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., Speedway Children's Charities has grown into a national foundation with chapters located at each of the six Speedway Motorsports Inc., facilities, including Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., Texas Motor Speedway in Dallas-Ft. Worth and Atlanta Motor Speedway. Each chapter's objective is to assist as many children as possible.