Regan Smith keeps Aurora shooting victims close to heart-and NASCAR

Stock Car RacingAuto RacingArts and CultureRegan SmithFurniture Row RacingThe Dark Knight Rises (movie)Colorado Movie Theater Shooting

SPEEDWAY - A correspondence in the wee hours of the morning rarely delivers good news. When multiple ones arrive, it the odds of it being bad significantly increase.

That was the situation Regan Smith found himself in early on the morning of July 20th, when his phone was rushed with a flurry of text messages before sunrise.

"From me being out east originally family there was up and watching the news," said Smith, who resides in Denver. "Wanted to make sure that myself and my wife Megan were safe and OK."

Unfortunately, there were many who were not. Not far from his home or his office at Furniture Row Racing, James Holmes walked into the middle of a packed movie theater showing"The Dark Knight Rises" not long after midnight.

With the use of an automatic weapons, he opened fire on the crowd. Twelve were killed with 60 injured at the hands of a 24-year old from San Diego who was mimicking another character from the Batman trilogy.

"You get into a state of how unbelievable something like this could be," said Furniture Row team manager Joe Garone-who like Smith lives close by the shooting site.

Condolences poured into the Denver area as the news reached across the country as it did to Smith via text on Friday morning. It was the off week for Sprint Cup driver, who drives the number 78 machine for the only team in the NASCARdivision located outside the Carolinas.

With the extra time to pay attention to situation surrounding them, Smith knew that he had to find a way do something positive.

"Actions speak louder than words," philosophized Smith when talking about how to handle tragedy-thought the former would actually lead to the latter.

During this week's Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the No. 78 car will feature a number of tributes to the victims of the Aurora threat re shooting. The car was voided of most of its advertising in place raising awareness for the victims and what transpired so quickly in that theater.

"Really what your fighting is a timeline to get it done," said Garone when it came to getting it done between the shooting and the start of Brickyard practice Saturday. "Our marketing guys jumped right on it."

So did a number of things on the car. The first thing is a ribbon on the front hood with the top featuring the unique "C" found in the Colorado flag. On the back fenders in large letters is "Aurora, CO" with the names of the 12 victims directly underneath-six on each side of the back wheel.

On the trunk is a simple condolence: "For those lost, those injured, and countless acts of bravery-7/20/12."

"We felt that we needed to pay tribute to the folks who not only lost their lives but to the heroes that did some miraculous things to save other lives," said Smith. "Maybe even some of the folks who jumped in front of bullets as some of these stories that our coming out.

"It was pretty much a given from the start the we needed to do something here."

Sporting the tribute for the first on Saturday, Smith qualified the machine 14th for Sunday's 19th Brickyard 400. It will be in full view of one of NASCAR's biggest crowds of the season along with a major television audience.

For those whose eyes might catch a glipse of the No. 78 car, Garone has just a simple request.

"There were some heroes that came out of that, people made selfless acts to save other people," said Garone. "Just pray for the families."

Perhaps the tribute car can give people something positive to text about late Sunday afternoon.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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