Even as a sports reporter, I admit, there are much more important things in life than sports. With that being said, sports can create an outlet of support for athletes and fans alike to do something meaningful to help one another.
A perfect example of that comes at the Elkin’s dirt track, and it’s even in its track name. Friendship Motor Speedway creates a family that looks at things that are bigger than themselves, and helps people in times of need. They showed that Saturday night by raising funds for Elkin’s Rocky Lyons, who was diagnosed with cancer more than a month ago, through their annual Fan Appreciation Day.
Traditionally a “thank you” to all the fans who support the track, the event took on extra meaning when they learned that Lyons, one of the winningest and largest supporters of the track was battling cancer. Since then, the Friendship fan base has adapted the term, “Rock Strong” as Lyons goes through his battle.
“Rocky’s a strong person, and he’s gonna get through this,” Michael Harrell, team owner of Big Daddy Racing said. “He’s always been like family. Race drivers, pit crews, fans, they come together when it’s needed.”
“It’s really good that everybody’s come together to help him out. Rocky’s been strong for everybody, so it’s time to be strong for him when he needs it,” Big Daddy Racing driver Kayla Harrell said.
In times of tragedy like Brenton Hall’s untimely death during the summer which sent a ripple to the whole racing community, Friendship Motor Speedway has responded with love. There was no shortage of love when it came to someone like Lyons who has had an impact on current series drivers since they were little kids.
SECA Crate Late Model driver and Mount Airy native Brad Burkhart said he had a chance to do something when he was a child that not many 11-year olds get to do.
“His car broke… and he let me sit in his car all night,” Burkhart said. “As a matter of fact, the first race we won over here he walked up to me and asked if I remembered it.”
Despite Mother Nature rearing its ugly head many times and postponing Fan Appreciation Day a few times, fans braved the chilly weather to support Lyons in whatever way possible, whether it was buying a shirt where proceeds went towards the family, or bidding on racing memorabilia. Additionally, many drivers opted to purchase decals for their race cars.
Perhaps the best moment of the night came in the closing laps of the Late Model race. Chris Cheek and Landon Mitchell had been battling lap-for-lap when Mitchell, running the “Rock Strong” decal on the hood of his car made a dive to the inside of the final corner and made it stick. It was Mitchell’s first win at Friendship of the season, and considering how much he and his friends care about Rocky, it added additional meaning to the win.
“It was extra special. It’s funny how things like that happen,” Mitchell said. “That was just fitting for the night. We’re Rock Strong, and Rocky’s in victory lane. That’s a big deal.”
Other winners on the night included Jeff Parsons, who won the Open Wheel Modified feature and Renegades. Super Stock 4 champion showed off why he’s the champ with a dominant win, while Bryan Nance won two weeks in a row in Limited Sportsman, Ryan Owens dominated in UCAR, and Randy Powell earned his seventh win of the year in Xtreme Stock 4.
At press time, the total money raised for Rocky Lyons was not yet released.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.