Jimmie Johnson drives the 48 car. The second year Nascar phenom visited the BX at Keesler Air Force Base to shake hands and say thank you to some of America's military. "Even though I put my life on the line to race a car for entertainment value," Johnson said, "the real heroes are the men and women overseas fighting for our country and fighting for us to have the freedoms that we have."
Johnson and his car's owner Rick Hendrick both signed autographs at the Keesler BX. "I feel it's our duty to be here," said Hendrick. "I want to be here. And every time I see a uniform, I want to thank them for the opportunity for me and my family to be free."
One of Johnson's fans asked the Nascar driver if he would win the Talladaga race this weekend. He said he thought he had a good chance.
On the race course, the Hendrick Motorsports team thinks it has always has a chance to reach the checkered flag first. Away from the track, the team will consider itself a winner if it can find more bone marrow donors. "We're excited about coming down here," Hendrick said, "because what these people are doing will probably save a life somewhere down the road. So we're excited about it."
That's the other reason the Hendrick team came to Keesler. The base held a bone marrow blood drive, so more people could be like Philip Fonteyn. In 1999, the senior master sergeant's bone marrow donation saved an infant child. "I certainly never consider myself to be a hero," said Fonteyn. The opportunity to save somebody's life though is always (amazing), I would do it again tomorrow."
There's a family back in Italy that's thankful Fonteyn made his bone marrow available.
The Hendrick Motorsports team believes it will reach the winner's circle if it can encourage more people to become donors. Rick Hendrick is a big proponent of bone marrow research. That's why his racing team established the Hendrick Marrow Program. It's set up to make people aware of the need for marrow donors.