Hundreds of thousands of families live each day with Autism, including some in the NASCAR Winston Cup garage area. Autism occurs one per every 250 births and 1.5 million Americans have autism. It is the fastest growing developmental disability, increasing at a rate of 10-17% annually. These are some puzzling facts for a puzzling disability. Elliott Sadler and his family know full well the affects Autism. Elliott?s niece and brother Hermie?s daughter, Halie Dru, was diagnosed with the disability in 2001.

?When I signed on board to drive for Robert Yates Racing with M&M?S as a sponsor, M&M?S came to me and asked what gets to me,? explained Sadler. ?They wanted to know what my ?cause? was. I told them it would have to be Autism research because of the effect it has had on my family. We sat down and thought of some creative and different ways to raise awareness and funds and got the idea to play a basketball game called ?Hoops for Hope??.

On May 15th, 2003, the one hour game paired NASCAR drivers and other celebrities with members of the media. Sadler played basketball for his high school basketball team in Emporia, Va., as a point guard and went to James Madison University with a scholarship to play basketball. His hoops career was short lived as he injured his knee before he got a chance to start. So, that is why Elliott has a ?sit-down? job as a racecar driver - but he still plays ball each chance he gets.

The event was announced in Talladega and the response and interest from Sadler?s friends in the NASCAR garage was overwhelming. Drivers who agreed to play included Sadler?s brother Hermie played and teammate Dale Jarrett. Additionally Jamie McMurray, Larry Foyt, Tony Raines, and Jeff Burton stepped up to help the cause. Wrestling sensations Jeff Jarrett from the NWA-TNA and WWE?s Ric Flair, and NFL stars Wesley Walls and Deems May brought their game to the court all in the effort to help raise awareness for Autism. To add some spice to the mix, former NBA star and co-host of the ?Best Damn Sports Show, Period? John Salley flew to North Carolina from LA to take part in the game. Salley is a Georgia Tech grad and 6?11? forward. His support for the cause was pretty incredible and he helped coach the celebrity team along with UNC Charlotte 49ers men?s basketball coach Bobby Lutz. Bobby is a former UNC Charlotte graduate and has guided team to three NCAA tournaments and four post-season appearances.

Artie Kempner from FOX played a big role in the game. He has a little boy who is autistic and also sits on the Board of Directors at the Autism Society of America. He has been a great supporter of autism research and serves as a mentor for both Elliott and Hermie in the charge to find a cure.

Racing legend Darrell Waltrip attended the game and was good for some serious entertainment. Initially he wanted to coach the drivers, then he wanted to coach the media, and when he got to UNC that evening, he put on a uniform and played for the drivers. He lived up to his name as he put on a great show for the fans.

The All-Star team took on the media. Headliners on the opposing team included Danielle Frye from MRN Radio, Sean Pragano, Jeff Hammond and Steve Byrnes from Totally NASCAR, Marty Smith from and Marty Snyder from NBC.

The game was fun for all and at the end of the night the All-Stars prevailed over the media by a score of 57-38.

?I think it was one of the most humbling experiences I ever had,? said Sadler. ?For that night I felt like almost every one of the few thousand people in that arena that night had been touched someway or somehow by Autism. Not every family is fortunate enough to be able to afford special schooling for their loved ones. We send Halie Dru to the Faison School for Autism in Richmond, Va. Each day Halie comes home and has learned a new word, it brings a tear to my eye, because she is making so much progress. I know not everyone is able to send their lov

ed one to a special school, so that is why it is important for people who are influential in the community or can use their fame to spread the word about Autism. My friends and I raised a lot of money for the cause, and hope that we set the pace for what may be an annual event ? the M&M?S Hoops for Hope classic.?

The combined effort rose close to $50,000 for the Autism Society of America. For more information on autism or autism research please call 1-800 3AUTISM or visit

This website uses cookies and similar technologies. By using this website, you are agreeing to our revised Privacy Policy (including our cookie policy) and our Terms of Use. OK

Chicagoland Speedway
500 Speedway Blvd, Joliet, Illinois 60433 Tickets & Information Call 888.629.RACE (7223)

© 2019 Chicagoland Speedway


ISC Track Sites