Among the sea of cars in Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event was a familiar site for the Colorado State faithful, as one of NASCAR’s most prominent drivers, Danica Patrick, donned the green and gold.
When Patrick pulled up to the starting line of Bristol Motor Speedway (Tenn.) on Saturday, she was racing for a cause much bigger than herself. The veteran NASCAR and IndyCar driver represented the One Cure project, led by the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University.
“It’s great to have One Cure on the car this weekend,” Patrick said in an initial release. “I love dogs and I’m glad we can bring more awareness to all of the work the team at the Flint Animal Cancer Center is doing. Our pets are members of our families and, when they aren’t well, we want to do everything we can to help.”
“Cancer has touched so many of us. Knowing we can use what we learn from keeping our animals healthy to potentially help save human lives is a cause I’m honored to support.”
Founded on the principles of comparative oncology, One Cure’s mission is to use the expertise of scientists and doctors to help find a cure for cancer through collaborative treatment breakthroughs for both humans and animals.
According to the program’s official website, the center sees more than 1,500 animal cancer patients each year, with approximately 400 patients enrolling in carefully monitored clinical trials specific to their cancer type.
Patrick, a renowned animal lover and owner of two dogs, a 3-year-old miniature Siberian Husky named Dallas and a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois named Ella, explained that her connection to the project came through one of her team members and immediately stood out to her.
As well as racing with the One Cure logo on her car, Patrick and her boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have made plush versions of their dog, Dallas Stenhouse available for sale. Portions of the proceeds of all sales go to various animal charities.
“It’s a cool one for me because I love animals,” Patrick said. She further explained that the inspiration from the idea came from Dale Earnhardt Jr., who also sold plush versions of his dog, Killer. Killer passed away from cancer in 2015, but Earnhardt and Patrick have long been proponents of foundations that benefit their furry friends.
“I thought it would be cool to have Dallas as a stuffed animal too,” Patrick said. “Instead of making money, which I do not care about, it was a way for us to give back to animal charities. Any money made off of the Dallas dogs goes back into helping animals.”
Known for being one of the truly groundbreaking athletes in her field, having finished higher in the Indy 500 than other female driver in history and owning more top-10 finishes (seven) than any other woman in NASCAR history, Patrick knows she has the ability to make a difference with her platform. In fact, she genuinely looks forward to it.
“I do not feel like I have to do it, I want to do it and that is what keeps me going,” Patrick said. “I do not want to waste the opportunity to do good things, to say good things, to spread the good word of something or to raise awareness of something.”
Patrick’s representation of the project was not the first time One Cure has been featured in the national racing spotlight.
The Tony Stewart Foundation, founded by NASCAR legend Tony Stewart, announced a partnership with the Flint Animal Cancer Center in the spring. IndyCar driver Jay Howard debuted the One Cure foundation and Ram logo on his Honda at the Indianapolis 500 on May 28.
Howard finished the event 33rd, due to contact with another driver that resulted in him only completing roughly one quarter of the race (45 laps). Prior to the race, in a statement released on the official One Cure website, Howard spoke on representing One Cure.
“I can’t begin to tell you how honored I am to have this opportunity,” Howard said. “I’m not one to give up on a dream, and I have every bit of determination to make this a successful effort for Tony (Stewart), Team One Cure and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.”
Along with being represented in one of the premiere IndyCar races in the world, the One Cure initiative previously made its NASCAR debut on the side of Patrick’s No. 10 Ford at the Kansas Speedway event on May 10. Much like Howard, Patrick was not able to finish the race due to a collision with another driver.
While Patrick did race for her team and individual success on Saturday night, she also raced for something much bigger: a cure for cancer.
Collegian sports director Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JustinTMichael.