Waltrip Donates Hood to Pentagon Phoenix Project
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2002 On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Series driver Michael Waltrip remembers being on his tractor "just goofing off, digging dirt" at his home in North Carolina.
It was there that Waltrip got the news that terrorists had attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. "I was in shock," he said. It was a day he says he'll never forget -- a day he says No one should forget. But he adds, "It's important to get things back to normal."
Today, before a gathering of hard-hat workers and NASCAR fans at a Pentagon structure that looks quite normal compared to Sept. 11, Waltrip made a gesture that will be a reminder of the attack to everyone who visits the Pentagon. Waltrip donated the hood of one of his racecars to the Pentagon Phoenix Project.
"It's a real honor for me to be here, and I just want to say thanks to everyone that pitched in and made the Phoenix Project what it is. It symbolizes the resiliency of the American spirit," Waltrip said.
The hood, bearing the Phoenix Project logo, was on the Chevy Monte Carlo that Waltrip drove to eighth place at the Richmond International Raceway Sept. 6, 2002, a few days prior to the one-year anniversary of the attack. The hood will be part of a permanent display at the West entrance of the building, the attack site.
"I'm glad that I've had the chance to become associated in some way, to have the Phoenix Project logo on my car has meant a lot to me," Waltrip told the gathering. "Thanks for being a part of our team. It made us feel as though we were more than just a part of a race that day, but part of a bigger cause."
Mike Colston, project manager, accepting the hood on behalf of the Phoenix Project, said the story behind the hood "mirrored the spirit that made the Phoenix Project such a resounding success."
He said NASCAR driver Brian Vickers had the logo on his hood but missed qualifying for the race by a few seconds. When Waltrip heard that, he asked to display the hood in Vicker's place.
"It's that sense of teamwork and focus that I found to be so infectious following the terrorist attacks and is the reason we are standing here today," Colston said. "This hood will serve as a lasting reminder of the patriotism as well as the support people like Michael, Brian, and organizations like NASCAR, and the 3,000 or so people who helped to put the Pentagon back together."