Sprint Cup driver Jeff Gordon was presented a custom No. 24 Gordon jersey by Chiefs ambassador and former All-Pro safety Deron Cherry and a Chiefs Kingdom flag by former Chiefs wide receiver Chris Penn.
“I’ll always be a Chiefs fan, because Joe Montana came here,” Gordon said. “I was a huge Joe Montana fan when he was with the 49ers, and any team that he ever went to, I was going to follow.”
Penn, who also represented the Chiefs Ambassadors on Sunday during the Hollywood Casino 400, made it clear the Chiefs are a fan of NASCAR drivers, too.
“Our purpose is to come out here and show the drivers how much we appreciate what they do as athletes, and appreciate the whole of NASCAR and what they do, not only out here on the track, but in the community,” Penn said. “Showing our appreciation and giving the guys some food, everybody on the team, from the pit down. Being a football player, we know it’s a team effort.”
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Pearl Harbor survivor relishes day at Kansas Speedway
Kansas Speedway on Sunday honored U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Jesse Reynolds, a 99-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor believed to be the oldest living survivor of the World War II battle from Missouri.
“He was stunned,” his son, Ron, said after Jesse was introduced Sunday during driver introductions. “He’s pretty overwhelmed actually, but he’s enjoying the day. He really is.”
Jesse received perhaps the loudest ovation during prerace driver introductions.
“He was stationed at Pearl Harbor on the USS Macdonough off of Ford Island during the bombing on Dec. 7, 1941,” Ron said.
The Japanese surprise attack targeted the fleet’s aircraft, battleships and other vessels, but the USS Macdonough, a missile destroyer, wasn’t torpedoed.
“He was a cook and had just finished a noon meal when he came out on deck, saw the planes and wondered what in the world is going on,” Ron said. “After they dropped the torpedoes, he figured it out pretty quick.”
Jesse — a Jeff Gordon fanatic, according to Ron — now lives at a veteran’s home in Cameron, Mo., while Ron resides in Platte City.
Wild ride in parking lot
Michael Crowder stepped out of a 2015 Toyota Camry after a raucous minute on a course in the Kansas Speedway parking lot and shook his head.
“That doesn’t drive like the one my grandma had,” he said. “I never went for a ride like that when I was a kid.”
Crowder, who lives in North Carolina and was visiting his in-laws in Kansas City, was one of a continuous line of fans taking part in the Toyota Thrill Ride exhibit before the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday. Two tracks were sectioned off on the west side of the speedway. Professional drivers took passengers for a speedy, tire-squealing ride in a stock Camry or a higher-powered Scion FRS.
Joelle Simpson, from Appleton, Wis., wore a wide grin after her ride in the Camry. She routinely goes to races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but her first trip to Kansas Speedway was off to a fast start.
“I guess I didn’t expect that much handling from the car,” she said. “It was a nice experience. You get a tiny bit of a feel of how these guys drive. It’s pretty cool.”
Kahne, Liftmaster make donation to firefighters
Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne and one of his sponsors, Liftmaster, donated $15,000 to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation before Sunday’s race.
“This donation will signify a total of $55,000 donated by Liftmaster to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation this year,” Kahne said, reading from a statement.
Kahne was joined on stage by the families of fallen firefighters Jared Moore and Mark Mansfield.
A moment of silence was held for Kansas City firefighters Larry Leggio and John Mesh, who died Monday in the line of duty.
Fire in turn four
A bus caught fire Sunday in the Kansas Speedway parking lot outside of turn four early into the race. The driver was in the bus when the fire started, but she was not injured.
The driver, who asked not to be identified, said she was lying in a passenger seat when she heard a pop on the ceiling, which eventually caved in.
The fire melted much of the inside of the bus and blasted out several windows, including the front windshield.
Stonestreet magic doesn’t carry over to Speedway
“Modern Family” star and Kansas City, Kan., native Eric Stonestreet made his way from Kauffman Stadium, where he took in the first two games of the American League Championship Series, to Kansas Speedway on Sunday.
“It made it easy when the Kansas race was here, because I’m friends with Kevin (Harvick) and like to support him whenever I can,” said Stonestreet, who was shown on CrownVision immediately before the Royals’ seventh-inning rally on Saturday. “It’s easy when there’s a few things to do when I come home to see my parents and stuff.”
A mutual admiration fuels Stonestreet’s fandom for Harvick.
“I can’t remember exactly how we met, but he was a fan of the show and I was a fan of racing and we just kind of hooked up and have been buddies ever since,” said Stonestreet, whose parents still live in the Kansas City area.
Harvick finished a disappointing 16th, but Stonestreet said he’s also a big Clint Bowyer fan.
“Clint’s a Kansas guy, so I like him,” Stonestreet said, “but Kevin’s my man.”
Bowyer also had a tough day, finishing 40th after a crash on lap 170.
Sporting players impressed by NASCAR spectacle
Defender Erik Palmer-Brown went to the Daytona 500 a few years ago when Sporting Kansas City was in training camp in Florida. He got hooked a bit on stock-car racing.
“My grandma’s a big Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan and my mom loves Jeff Gordon, but I was never a big fan of it,” Palmer-Brown said. “Seeing it up close and being in the pits two years ago, it changed my perspective.”
He decided to share that newfound fandom with a few teammates Sunday during the Hollywood Casino 400.
Defender Amadou Dia grew up a Formula 1 racing fan in France. His dad, Hamidou, watched a lot of races, but he was impressed with the stock-car spectacle.
“This is amazing,” Dia said. “It’s incredible. I’m glad I came here to try it out. This is no joke.”
Dia wasn’t alone feeling a sense of wonder.
“It’s been awesome,” midfielder Connor Hallisey said. “You see all the fans and everybody waiting outside and all the guys walking around signing autographs and stuff, it’s definitely a different than soccer.”
He can’t imagine Sporting KC will ever issue hot passes that allow fans to walk through the locker room like NASCAR fans stream through the garage area on race day.
“I hadn’t had too much interest before,” defender Saad Abdul-Salaam said, “but now that I’m here and see, it’s pretty exciting with the energy and atmosphere.”
Tod Palmer and Sam McDowell, the Star, and Ryan Atkinson and Todd Engle, Special to The Star