Annual Paint Pit Wall Pink event hits home for many in NASCAR community

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Breast cancer survivors, their families and many NASCAR supporters attended Wednesday’s now-annual Paint Pit Wall Pink gathering at Charlotte Motor Speedway in advance of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness worldwide campaign.

Reigning and seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson spoke to the large crowd gathered trackside on a very warm and sunny morning.

XFINITY drivers such as Hermie Sadler, Cole Custer, Michael Annett, Daniel Hemric, Blake Koch, Spencer Gallagher and Jeremy Clements were on hand to lend support to the cause, as was driver Bubba Wallace, who has participated in this particular kickoff campaign for five years.

“From our sport’s participation and integrating pink detail into the month of October we’ve seen pink race cars, details on hats, gloves, firesuits. … I just feel our NASCAR community has always been very good at giving back and using this platform for awareness,” said Johnson, a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina “Live Fearless” brand ambassador.

Johnson led the gathering in painting the pit wall pink — his example followed by a hundred of the people there — breast cancer survivors in pink ribbons and their supporters in pink T-shirts. His Hendrick Motorsports team members will wear pink gloves for the month of October, including the XFINITY Series’ Oct. 7 Drive for the Cure 300.

And Johnson revealed he had a personal health “wake-up call” earlier this year when doctors had to remove carcinoma spots on his shoulder.

“When that ‘c’ word is in your vocabulary — and granted mine was on such a small scale compared to this cause — it still hits you in a particular way,” Johnson said. “Grateful to pick up this positive energy created in this great cause.”

For Koch, who drives the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Toyota, this event absolutely hits home. His mother, Angie, is an 11-year breast cancer survivor.

“I’m so thankful for what the race track does and Blue Cross Blue Shield 300 to bring awareness to breast cancer,” Koch said. “It’s such a serious disease and so many are affected.

“My mom is a survivor, it’s been 11 years, now. I was 21 years old and when I got that call from her, it was a very helpless feeling. My mom raised me and I felt like she was the strongest woman in the world, so when you get that call and she sounds scared, that’s not something you like to hear as a son.

“It affected me very very much but showed me how strong she really is to be able to fight that disease and to be able to survive it and be here with me 11 years later. It’s special to me and I won’t miss this event.”