NASCAR late model driver helps brighten holiday for needy Wisconsin family

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Here’s a lovely story out of La Crosse, Wisconsin where recently, one local family in need had their holiday season brightened by a local NASCAR late model driver.

On Friday, Matt Henderson, who competes out of the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, led a caravan of local businesses to the home of five-year-old Kayden Johnson in his No. 33 Chevrolet. The group was there to deliver a variety of gifts and presents to Johnson’s family.

According to the La Crosse Tribune, this is the second year where Henderson’s team has worked with local organizations to ensure that a family’s Christmas wishes come true.

Back in October, Henderson Motorsports contacted the La Crosse School District to identify a needy family with an interest in motorsports. From there, they worked to collect donations from sponsors and other businesses in the area.

Johnson was certainly happy to receive his gifts. But according to the Tribune’s Nathan Hansen, what really made him excited was being able to get inside Henderson’s car.

Here’s an except from Hansen’s heart-warming piece:

For Kayden, that meant presents like a bike, racing flags, board games and new toy cars to add to his growing collection. For the family, that meant food for a Christmas meal, gift cards to grocery stores and restaurants, and other holiday necessities. But what Kayden really enjoyed was getting behind the wheel of Henderson’s number 33 race car.

Shy with the crowd that had formed to celebrate the Christmas donations, Kayden was quiet while he sat on Santa’s lap and opened the first of his presents. But after Henderson let him get behind the wheel of his car, Kayden lit up, beaming a bright smile and playing with the steering wheel, hands at 10 and two.

“Whoo,” Kayden exclaimed, bouncing and skipping back to help take his presents inside after getting to play with a real race car.

Local television station WKBT has video from the special occasion. Below are some photos as well from Henderson Motorsports’ Facebook page:

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.