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NASCAR drivers are honoring Kobe Bryant with their paint schemes at Auto Club 400

Alex Andrejev, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

NASCAR drivers will pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at Sunday's Auto Club 400 race in Fontana, Calif., with purple-and-gold paint schemes and gear.

Hendrick Motorsports will honor the former Los Angeles Lakers star with a new paint scheme for the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet driven by William Bryon.

Axalta Racing revealed the paint scheme Tuesday evening on Twitter.

Byron retweeted the post and said he was "honored" to be driving for the nine victims who died in a helicopter crash in late January, which included Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

"Honored to be driving for Kobe, Gianna, Payton, Sarah, Alyssa, Keri, John, Christina, and Ara," tweeted Byron. "Continued prayers for their families."

The No. 24 was one of Byrant's two jersey numbers while he played for the Lakers. He also wore No. 8. Both numbers were retired by the team.

Ryan Blaney of Team Penske will have a commemorative paint scheme on his No. 12 Ford. Blaney is a partner for BodyArmor, a company Bryant invested in. Blaney and Bryant met at a corporate event for BodyArmor in 2018 and discussed their respective sports.

"I just didn't expect the amount of interest he showed (in NASCAR)," Blaney said about their conversation. "I mean, he wanted to learn everything about it. And he had these questions that were like, 'Man, you know nothing about this but you're asking really good questions.' "

 

Blaney said that after meeting, Bryant sent him a signed copy of his book, "Mamba Mentality."

Other drivers honoring Bryant with their gear on Sunday include Daniel Suarez, who drives the No. 96 car. Suarez will wear gloves and shoes inscribed with the numbers eight and 24 on them, and his car will carry the names of all nine victims lost. His gear will be auctioned off after the race and the proceeds will be donated to the MambaOnThree Fund, which supports the families of those who died in the crash.

"I have opinions about many athletes but I've always admired most the ones who are not only great at their game, but great outside their game," Suarez said. "Kobe was that kind of athlete, and that kind of a person."

Additionally, the Auto Club Speedway, where the race will be held, will reportedly have a 24 painted on the infield turf and crash victims will be mentioned during the invocation. There will also be a memorial display that fans will be able to sign, according to Sports Business Journal.

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