Travis Kvapil's No. 38 Ford will go to Michigan International Speedway next week with a special tribute to the memory of Wes Leonard - the Fennville (Mich.) High School basketball player who died of a heart ailment just after scoring a game-winning basket.
The No. 38 Ford, which will be sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, will carry the logo of the Wes Leonard Heart Team on its rear quarter panels. The foundation was set up in the superstar's memory to honor children who have lost their lives to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and to prevent similar tragedies from occurring. Leonard's parents, brother and grandparents and members of the foundation will be special guests of the No. 38 team at the June 19 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
The 16-year-old junior passed away March 3, shortly after scoring the winning basket in overtime to secure an undefeated regular-season record for Fennville High. Doctors said the cause of his death was an enlarged heart, a condition that often goes undetected in otherwise healthy athletes. The Wes Leonard Heart Team was formed to lobby for legislation providing schools with automated electronic defibrillators (AEDs) and staff training to prevent sudden cardiac arrest in student athletes, and to raise research funds for the effective detection of heart ailments that can cause SCA.
"What happened to Wes just broke my heart," said Bob Jenkins, owner of Front Row Motorsports' No. 38 Ford. "I have teen-aged kids, Travis has a teen-aged daughter. Something like this really hits home with a parent. We just want to help raise awareness for the Wes Leonard Heart Team and, at the same time, give the family a day to remember at the racetrack."
The family and foundation hope the public attention will raise more awareness for their cause, so no parent will have to go through what they endured.
"No parent should have to watch their child die - ever," said Jocelyn Leonard, Wes' mother. "We may not have had a lot of signs to know that he had an enlarged heart, so we have to know how to restart that same heart. You cannot look at someone and say how young they are, or they are so fit. You have to look at the distress signs you are seeing and react accordingly. All gyms and schools should have working AEDs and staff that have an emergency response plan to put that life-saving equipment into use."
"The Wes Leonard Heart Foundation would like to thank Front Row Motorsports and driver Travis Kvapil for their generosity and support for raising awareness for the Wes Leonard Heart Team," said Tony Petkus, Fennville High School Athletic Director and Heart Team member.
Learn more about the Wes Leonard Heart Team at www.wesleonardheartteam.org.
Front Row Motorsports PR