TALLADEGA — It started a few Octobers ago in the NFL.
A few players wore pink gloves, shoelaces or wrist bands the first weekend of the month – designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month — to draw attention to the second-leading killer of women in the United States.
It didn’t take long before the grass-roots efforts of a few players caught on league-wide, with the image-savvy NFL now allowing teams to wear pink accents on their uniforms for the entire month, even adding a sticker of the NFL shield in front of a pink ribbon on players’ helmets.
Major League Baseball, the NBA and college sports joined the trend, and pink has become commonplace in men’s sports.
Now, even NASCAR — that most traditionally macho of all sports — has gotten in on the act this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, and while a pink car won’t lead the field to the green flag of today’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 — that honor will go to Kasey Kahne red-black-and-white HendrickCars.com Chevrolet — you won’t have to look far into the field to find a pink car. Or two. Or three.
While green has traditionally been considered the taboo, unlucky color going back to the sport’s early days, things change. Darrell Waltrip winning back-to-back Cup titles in 1981-82 in a green-and-while Mountain Dew car helped change that perception somewhat, drivers are a superstitious lot, and there have not been many green cars over the years.
There have been even fewer pink cars, as the color apparently clashed with outlaw image of many stock car drivers.
In fact, an ad campaign in the mid-90s poked fun at the late Dale Earnhardt – famous for his black car and ‘Intimidator’ image – for having driven a pink car early in his career.
Things change, though sporting pink is still a mental hurdle for at least one driver.
Two-time defending event winner Clint Bowyer, who enters today’s race fourth in the Chase for the Cup standings, will start third. His usual red-and-black No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota will instead feature pink as its main color.
“If I am going to be wearing pink and driving a pink car, it better be for a great cause,” Boywer said. “Trust me, it is for a great cause.”
“I hate breast cancer,” Bowyer continued.
“I have a great group of women in my life, and they all have friends and family that have been touched by breast cancer. If we can bring awareness and help fund research, then I’ll drive a pink car all day long.”
Perhaps pink is the new lucky color, as other cars sporting breast cancer awareness schemes include a pair of Roush-Fenway Racing teammates. Greg Biffle’s 3M Ford, starting fifth, and Matt Kenseth’s No. 17 Ford EcoBoost Fusion, which also carries a National Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, Inc., decal today, which will start 15th.
2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne will start eighth in a car sponsored in part by Warriors in Pink.