The “Autism Speaks 400 presented by Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips & Cheese” was won by Jimmie Johnson on Sunday, May 31, 2009 at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. This is the third year in a row that Autism Speaks has been the benefiting charity of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover. The race not only raised funds from fan donations, but it also generated tremendous awareness for autism and Autism Speaks programs.
Peter Bell, executive vice president for Autism Speaks, delivered opening remarks to the 100,000 fans in attendance during Sunday's pre-race ceremony, thanking the crowd,
Tyler Bell, left, and friend at Dover International Speedway
and race sponsor Heluva Good! and Dover International Speedway for their commitment to raising autism awareness and creating a more compassionate community for those living with autism. Following Bell, Larry Oliveri, a seventeen year-old with autism from Staten Island, N.Y., sang “God Bless America,” and gave the command to the drivers “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!” Lehigh Valley Walk Chair Karen Barbarics and Peter Bell represented Autism Speaks in the Grand Marshal vehicle at the close of the pre-race ceremony. Peter Bell and Scott Blake, senior vice president of Heluva Good!, co-presented the race trophy to Johnson at the Victory Lane ceremony after the race concluded.
Among the supporters who turned out for the race on Sunday were the nearly 100 volunteers from the national sorority Alpha Xi Delta. The Alpha Xi Delta volunteers staffed kiosks throughout the track, handing out information on autism and the Walk Now for Autism program, and collecting over $6,000 in donations from fans. Alpha Xi Delta recently selected Autism
Volunteers from Alpha Xi Delta at the Autism Speaks booth
Speaks as its charitable partner and is actively raising funds for the organization through Walk events across the country.
Additionally, drivers in all three series races carried the puzzle piece logo on both the outside and inside of their cars in support of Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks was prominently featured in the race coverage on both FOX Sports and the Speed Channel.