How about a ride with a NASCAR driver?

Here’s your chance to take a ride with Missouri’s top NASCAR driver, Carl Edwards.

Not in his race cars. On a bike.

Every year Columbia native Carl Edwards hosts his annual Ride with Carl for Sam event in Columbia. The event is all about lifelong friendship that is greater than the glamour and noise of big-time auto racing that is Carl Edwards’ public life.

The Ride with Carl for Sam points up something that is usually lost in that glamour and noise. That’s an off-track culture of charity that is a quiet part of NASCAR. Only a few of the things that are part of that culture of giving get much public attention. We’ve never heard a NASCAR driver call attention to himself for the good things he does. Most often they have to be asked about their efforts before they talk very much.

Carl Edwards takes part in a lot of events that raise a lot of money to help a lot of people. A few weeks ago, for example, he was hoping to be voted into the annual all-star race in Charlotte, NC by the fans. If he had gotten in and if he had won the one-million dollar prize, he was going to donate all of it to the Speedway Children’s Charities. He works with his sponsors on their special events—a few years ago we interviewed him at an Office Depot store in Indianapolis after his then-sponsor had a school supplies backpack event, for example–and he’s run Tony Stewart s “Prelude to the Dream” event at Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Ohio. And he and other drivers do a lot more that they don’t talk about. (Our other top-ranking Missouri driver, Joplin native Jamie McMurray, has a foundation that raises money for autism services).

This Wednesday (July 14) Carl will lead the Ride for Sam, an event that honors boyhood friend Sam Russell who used to ride bikes a lot with Carl until he had a mountain biking accident in Wisconsin left him paralyzed from the chest down. Sam was thrown from his bike and hit a tree. Carl’s Ride will be a ten-mile trip from Columbia to McBaine. A $50 donation is suggested for those taking part. The proceeds go toward the Sam Russell Helmet Safety Foundation. Sam, his friends, and his family say that Sam’s helmet saved his life in the crash. His mom, Nancy, says the funds will be used for a home gym to keep Sam’s paralyzed muscles and nerves in good physical condition.

This reporter confesses to having a small personal interest in the event because we’ve interviewed Edwards a few times and he’s always given good, straight answers to what we hoped were decently-informed straight questions. But we’ve also known Sam’s mom Nancy since she was a little girl and Nancy’s parents, Chub and Sue Girard, are among our (wife Nancy and mine) most favorite people.

This year’s event is going to be special because Sam will be riding with Carl for the first time since his crash. He has a special bike that uses hand cranks for power. He’s been getting in shape for this Ride With Carl for several months. The Columbia Missourian ran a picture of Sam having fun with his bike last Friday.

Missourinet Sports Director Bill Pollack plans to head to Columbia from our offices in Jefferson City next Wednesday morning to cover this unique sports event involving special people whose friendship transcends stardom and misfortune and represents the often unrecognized spirit of giving that is part of one of our nation’s biggest sports.

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