'Cody Unser Night' at Irwindale speedway

IRWINDALE, Calif. (Nov. 10, 2000) -- Cody Unser's national effort to find a cure for paralysis and transverse myelitis finds its way to Southern California on Thanksgiving for "Cody Unser Night" at the annual "Turkey Night" USAC Midget race on...

IRWINDALE, Calif. (Nov. 10, 2000) -- Cody Unser's national effort to find a cure for paralysis and transverse myelitis finds its way to Southern California on Thanksgiving for "Cody Unser Night" at the annual "Turkey Night" USAC Midget race on the racetrack called "LA's half-mile superspeedway." Irwindale partners Bob DeFazio, Jim Williams and Danny Sullivan host this first "Racers Care!" fundraiser for 13-year-old Cody's First Step Foundation as part of the festivities for the Home Depot "Turkey Night Grand Prix", America's longest running short-track classic dating back to 1934. It will be taped Thanksgiving night for telecast on ESPN2 Thunder Sunday, Nov. 26, at 9:30 p.m. (EST). The Cody Unser First Step Foundation was formed in 1999 to promote awareness, medical cooperation and research for the condition that put Cody in a wheelchair. Cody's "Racers Care!" fundraiser at Irwindale will include the race fans, the racers and ESPN2 Thunder broadcasters Bob Jenkins, Gary Lee, Larry Rice and Amy East. Florida modified driver Ken Smith created the concept for Cody Unser fundraisers at America's short-tracks after seeing a story about Cody on the Fox Family Channel's "Courage" program hosted by Danny Glover in September. Smith began contacting tracks nationally and Irwindale expressed interest in hosting what becomes the first "Racers Care!" event. "I was so affected by Cody's story and courage that I just wanted to help", said Smith, who runs First Step Foundation decals prominently on the modified car he runs in northern Florida. "This type of fundraiser is something that every race track in America could and should do for Cody." Cody, the daughter of two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Al Unser Jr., became paralyzed below the chest early last year with a rare spinal cord inflammation known as transverse myelitis. Cody's foundation was started with a $60,000 gift from Bobby Labonte with his race winnings from the 1999 IROC Series when he replaced Al Jr. Labonte's NASCAR teammate Tony Stewart, a USAC champion now sponsored by Home Depot on the Winston Cup circuit, will compete in the Turkey Night midget race along with USAC's stars. Irwindale VP/COO Bob DeFazio is familiar with transverse myelitis; a neighbor in Newport Beach, now close friends with Cody's mom Shelley Unser, has a teenage son who was paralyzed by TM but has since recovered. Williams, a longtime partner in Penske Racing, has known Cody her entire life. Sullivan, the 1985 Indianapolis 500 winner, was teammates with Al Jr. at Galles Racing in 1992. Proceeds from the "Racers Care!" fundraisers will go toward Cody's work with the Johns Hopkins Transverse Myelitis Center, the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. For foundation information, see www.CodysFirstStep.org.

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Series USAC
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Al Unser Jr. , Danny Sullivan , Shelley Unser
Teams Williams , Team Penske