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NASCAR: Michael Waltrip and other car owners bring awareness to tornado victims

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PETE IACOBELLI
AP Sports Writer

    
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) - Owner Michael Waltrip and others in the NASCAR garage hope to bring attention to the needs of those affected by the Oklahoma tornadoes at the Coca-Cola 600 this weekend.
    
Michael Waltrip Racing's three Sprint Cup cars will carry decals of Feed The Children, an Oklahoma City-based group that is providing food and resources to victims of the tornadoes. Michael Waltrip said he wanted to help out when he saw the devastation.
    
MWR cars driven by Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin will carry the decals in Sunday's race. Michael and Darrell Waltrip held a charity golf tournament last year and Feed The Children was among the beneficiaries.
    
Swan Racing owner Brandon Davis is from Oklahoma and was in college in Oklahoma City in 1999 when the last devastating tornado hit the city's suburbs. He still has family there and said Thursday that one of his cousins lost their house in the storm.
    
"It hit very close to home for me," Davis said. "It's been a very emotional week.
    
Davis's No. 30 car driven by David Stremme will also carry a decal for Feed The Children.
    
Five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said following his qualifying run Thursday that his sponsor, Lowe's, would donate $1 million toward the Oklahoma tragedy and that Hendrick Motorsports would add to that total. Johnson's wife, Channi, is from Oklahoma.
    
Johnson said he's talked with Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops. "He's going to keep us up to date on what we can do to help," Johnson said.
    
Michael Waltrip said the Coca-Cola 600 was a great forum to reach millions of race fans about those in need.
    
Authorities say there were 24 people killed by the tornadoes. The police and the mayor's office in Oklahoma City both estimate that around 12,000 homes were damaged and destroyed in the city and to the south in Moore.
    
David Ragan and Front Row Motorsports are encouraging fans to join team partner, Oklahoma City-based Love's Travel Stops, in donating to help tornado victims. The company announced a $3 million donation toward relief efforts. Ragan's No. 34 car will carry decals during the race.
    
Love Travel Stops said $1 million would go to the OK Strong Relief Fund and $500,000 would go to Catholic Charities. The other $1.5 million would fund a benefit event for those hurt by the storm.
    
Ragan said his team was more than willing to help relief efforts.
    
"Anything we can do to help, we're obviously happy to do it," Ragan said.  "You feel so helpless when you watch the footage on TV and you wish you could do something more for those folks."
    
Davis' business, Swan Energy, sent supplies to people who lost their homes in the storm. He said crew members for the No. 30 Sprint Cup car are collecting clothes and additional supplies to send to Oklahoma.
    
Davis says NASCAR fans are among the most generous and responsive in times of great need. "And they do it in a big way," he said. "When they see someone in need, they're going to help out."

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