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Racer Presents Autographed Auto Hood to Renovation Program

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2002 – Professional racecar driver Brian Vickers today presented an autographed auto hood to "Phoenix Project" team members in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack and their successful efforts in rebuilding DoD's headquarters.

Phoenix, the special rebuilding project after the attack, is part of a larger, multiyear Pentagon Renovation Program.

NASCAR rookie Vickers, 18, from Thomasville, N.C., presented the aluminum hood -- boasting more than 90 signatures of other pro drivers and team owners and members -- to project representatives Brett Eaton and Rachel Decker in a ceremony. The Association of the U.S. Army, having its annual three-day meeting here at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel here, co-sponsored the presentation.

"We wanted to honor the Phoenix Project renovation with this hood. Speaking for the NASCAR community, we are fully behind everything that the Pentagon has done," Vickers pointed out, noting, "What these people have done to get that building back (in shape) is amazing.

"Thanks for the hard work," the top-notch, Busch-series racer added. Autographs in golden script are written all across the black-enameled hood, which also features the red, white and blue Phoenix Project logo, with the project's official motto: "Let's Roll."

The motto is the reputed last words of Todd Beamer as he led a group of fellow United Airlines Flight 93 passengers against terrorists who had hijacked their plane. Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, killing all aboard. Officials have speculated since that the airliner may have been en route to strike the White House or the U.S. Capitol.

Pentagon renovations have been ahead of schedule and on budget, Decker said. She noted that renovation program manager Lee Evey, who retired in mid-September, is an inveterate NASCAR racing fan. She recalled his enthusiasm when NASCAR offered the auto hood around Labor Day.

"He said, 'Absolutely, we need to make this happen,'" she said.

Decker called the donated hood unique, an emotive symbol of the successful efforts of the Pentagon Renovation Program. The hood and a commemorative plaque will go on display in the Pentagon for now, she noted, and likely will be donated to a museum later.

Eaton noted the damaged outer "E" Ring sections of the Pentagon were repaired and reoccupied within a year of the attack.

"That was a very aggressive (work) schedule and something that we accomplished 28 days ahead of schedule," he pointed out, adding that the first groups of workers returned to their renovated "E" Ring offices on Aug. 15.

The Phoenix Project couldn't have occurred "without support from Brian and people from all over the country who really threw their weight and support behind the program," Eaton said.

That support greatly motivated Phoenix Project workers by letting them know "the world was watching and that everything they were doing was really appreciated," he said.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNASCAR racer Brian Vickers (right) presents Phoenix Project representative Brett Eaton an autographed automobile hood Oct. 22, 2002, as a salute to Pentagon Renovation Program members. The hood, signed by other drivers, team members and owners, was presented at a ceremony at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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