Birmingham, AL – Starting from dead last in a field of 23 drivers at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday, Brandon Davis of Napa, California, drove his way into the hearts and minds of the most important spectators at the Pirelli World Challenge. And if you were there in the Medical Properties Trust Racing for Children’s Hospitality Tent – cheering with kids who were racing for their own lives against childhood cancer – you will never forget it.
Lap by lap, moment after breathtaking moment, Davis put on a display of driving skill and never-say-die, never-give-up, never-stop-fighting strength of will worthy of these courageous kids. And everyone in the tent, which was created to give patients, family members, and caregivers the memories of a lifetime, took special inspiration from the stellar performance of the best-looking car on the track – the one carrying the kids’
handprints and their hopes.
The racing weekend began on Friday with Clint Guthrie at the wheel of the #4 Medical Properties Trust Racing for Children’s Porsche 911 GTS. Despite battling the effects of dehydration and a migraine headache, Guthrie put in an admirable performance and claimed the Optima Batteries Best Start Award for gaining three positions on the first lap. Still fatigued on Saturday, Guthrie handed the driving duties over to Davis, the team’s driver-coach, who stepped in to compete in the second race of the weekend.
As a result of the driver change, the Racing for Children’s Porsche was forced to start the race at the back of the field, in accordance with PWC Series rules. When the green flag dropped, Davis wasted no time, quickly moving up the leader board and gaining six positions on the initial lap of the race. For this effort, Davis would be awarded the Optima Batteries Best Start Award for the Saturday World Challenge, but that is not the end of the story. Davis also brought home the VP Fuels Hard Charger Award by gaining a total of 18 positions over the course of the heated competition. Davis didn’t ultimately win the race; he finished 6th – less than 15 seconds off the podium. But he won the respect and admiration of everyone privileged to witness his masterful driving skill and remarkable accomplishment.
“People were yelling and screaming, and smiling a lot – rooting for the Children’s car,” said Lane Clark, 15, a 9th-grader at Walker County High School in Jasper. Clark, who signed his name on the car before the race – right on the driver’s door – had been diagnosed with T-cell leukemia at Children’s in October 2013 and had begun chemotherapy two days later, on his birthday. He served this weekend as Racing for Children’s Honorary Crew Chief along with Sid Ortis of Mountain Brook High School, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at Children’s in 2014.
“To be honored as a crew chief was like a dream,” added Clark, who spent most of the weekend in and around the Children’s tent. “We had a really good view and a really good driver – and the speed got faster and faster.I felt like a teenager again,” said the kid who still is a teenager, and now is feeling much better, on the other side of chemotherapy.
“It was so awesome to watch our car move up,” said Violet Smiley, whose son Jaylen served as Honorary Crew Chief last year and who was back at the Racing for Children’s tent as an honoree again this year. “We got a feel for how the race actually works,” she said.
“To see our car start from the back and move up that far was amazing,” Mrs. Smiley added. “There were a few times we actually got to see our driver pass another racecar right in front of us. And that made me feel like we won – like we beat the cancer. I don’t know why, but that’s where my mind went.”
Teamwork in the pits also played a key role in the spectacular success of the Racing for Children’s car, thanks to a dedicated and talented group of technicians from Chris Smith Racing out of Atlanta, Georgia. “This was truly a team effort and, in many ways, it mirrors the way the doctors, caregivers, and patients at Children’s work together to beat these horrible diseases,” said owner Chris Smith. “We feel honored to be a part of this special weekend and we look forward to supporting this worthy cause until this race is won.”
“I was just in awe. It almost brought tears to my eyes,” recalled Smiley with a mother’s compassion and heartfelt gratitude for every child who was there, and for others who couldn’t make it. “I didn’t want the race to end. I wanted it to continue so our car could win,” she said. “And our car is winning for us – to help future children win – and beat cancer.”
About Racing for Children’s
Founded in 2009 by Clint Guthrie, Doug Neil, Brynley King and Brian Starr, longtime Children’s Hospital supporters and motorsports enthusiasts, the Racing for Children’s (RFC) program seeks to engage the motorsports community in raising funds and awareness for the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s of Alabama. Racing for Children’s became the official designated charity for the Honda
Indy of Alabama and held its first charity auction and dinner at Barber Motorsports Museum on the Friday night of the race weekend in 2011.
Over the past five years, Racing for Children’s has raised more than $875,000.00 to benefit the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders, which is based at Children’s. As a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization, Racing for Children’s funds vital research dedicated to curing all forms of childhood cancer.
More information is available at www.racingforchildrens.org;
About Children’s of Alabama:
Children’s of Alabama is the 10th busiest pediatric medical center in the United States. The Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders (ACCCBD) at Children’s of Alabama is the state’s only comprehensive center for pediatric cancer and other blood disorders, treating 90 percent of all such patients diagnosed in Alabama. Specialized pediatric services exist for all forms of childhood cancer, leukemia, brain and spinal cord tumors, hemophilia and other bleeding disorders and sickle cell diseases in the state. The center is a partnership between Children’s and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology. The ACCCBD is home to the only pediatric programs in blood and marrow transplantation, childhood cancer survivorship, developmental cancer therapeutics, pediatric
neuro-oncology, pediatric hemophilia and sickle cell disease in the state of Alabama. The cancer program is ranked among the best in the nation by US News & World Report.
More information is available at www.childrensal.org,
Facebook.com/childrenshospitalofalabama or twitter.com/ChildrensAL
About Medical Properties Trust:
Launched in 2003 and listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2005, Medical Properties Trust is a real estate investment trust specializing in hospitals. Over the past 12 years, MPT has become the leading source of capital for hospitals across the United States and Western Europe – providing funds for facility improvements, technology upgrades, acquisitions, and new construction. The company’s extensive portfolio now comprises more than 100 hospitals from coast to coast, plus more than 50 in Germany and Great Britain. With assets approaching $5 billion dollars, MPT is now the fourth largest owner of private, acute-care hospital beds in the U.S. and the second largest owner of
MPT’s slogan is “Investing in the Future of Healthcare.” The company also invests in the future of communities, supporting worthy causes across a great spectrum of community needs. MPT has sponsored the racecar for Racing for Children’s since 2011 (the very beginning of this special fundraising effort) and has served as Presenting Sponsor of the annual dinner and auction for the past two years. The company also sponsors the Racing for Children’s Patient Experience, which now brings cancer patients and their families to the Barber track year ‘round for special events and personal “hot laps.”
More information is available at www.medicalpropertiestrust.com.
About Chris Smith Racing:
Chris Smith Racing is a professional sports car racing company focusing on Porsche and founded on the principle of providing clients with exceptional, one of-a-kind service. The team offers a combined 20+ years of racing experience. Chris Smith began his career at 14 working on late model stock cars on short tracks across the South. After college and working as a master technician for a large volume import repair shop in Atlanta, he began to concentrate full time on his career in the racing industry.
After working with some of the top teams in the USA and achieving numerous podium finishes within the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, the ContinentalTire Sports Car Challenge and the American LeMans Series, he decided to follow his dream of owning and operating his own professional motorsports company.
More information is available at www.chrissmithracing.net
About Brandon Davis:
American driver Brandon Davis of Napa, California, has established his career in the World Challenge GT, the World Challenge Touring Car, and the Trans-Am road racing series. He brings over a decade of experience in stock and sportscar racing, coaching, and instructing expertise. A World Challenge GT Champion, Brandon has also raced in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series West, Camping World Series West, and multiple seasons in the Pirelli World Challenge, GRAND-AM, and IMSA TUDOR Championship and Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge series.
Highlights of his successful career include being named Rookie of the Year in 2005 in the SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship and in 2009 earning the World Challenge GT Championship Title by scoring points in each of the ten races, driving the #10 Ford Mustang GT. In his Championship season, he earned three qualifying pole positions, finished on the podium seven times and scored one victory at Mid-Ohio.
Among Davis’ many achievements, two seem to stand out most. On April 2nd, 2015, his son, Michael Chase Davis, was born (and given a most appropriate name, as the scion of a family of racers). And last Saturday, following Brandon’s his great race at Barber’s, he tweeted this good news:
Brandon Davis @Bdavisracing · Apr 25 Last to sixth! Happy to come home with a good result for #racingforchildrens in the @WCRacing race. Honored to be part of a great cause!
Sponsor a Handprint:
Please sponsor a handprint to help the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders find cures through research: www.racingforchildrens.org.
Every child matters. Every gift matters.