By CARL GREEN
Madison IL – Fallen line workers will be honored June 14 as NASCAR truck racing returns to Gateway Motorsports Park for the first time since 2010.
The “Drivin’ for Linemen 200,” part of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, will be held Father’s Day weekend, and the linemen will even have their own driver – T.J. Bell, a young veteran of both stock car and truck racing.
Bell, 33, of North Carolina and a native of Reno, Nev., is driving this year for MAKE Motorsports in a Chevy Silverado sponsored in part by the Fallen Linemen Organization, a non-profit group that provides emotional and financial support to the families of line workers who are killed on the job. The organization also provides scholarships for individuals interested in becoming electrical line workers and is planning a memorial to be included in the Lineman Hall of Fame at the International Lineman Museum in Shelby, N.C.
Gateway owner and CEO Curtis Francois said the race park is honored to be associated with the Fallen Linemen group and the International Linemen’s Museum.
“With the sporadic and dangerous weather we experience here in the Midwest, our fans understand the critical role electrical linemen play in assisting other first responders in their efforts to save lives,” Francois said.
“Our goal with this event partnership is to recognize these heroes and their families and pay tribute to the men and women who have sacrificed their lives helping others.”
The race will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised live on Fox Sports, with coverage beginning at 7 p.m.
Ameren Corp. recently signed on as a sponsor of the race to join in honoring the linemen.
“It takes a unique set of skills and a strong allegiance to serving others to accomplish the duties linemen perform each day,” said Geralynn Lord, assistant vice president of corporate communications for Ameren.
“Gateway Motorports Park is in the heart of our service territory, so it’s exciting that this unique sports venue has been revitalized to bring NASCAR back for area fans.”
A LIFE OF RACING
Bell, who has been racing since 2004, recently spent a week at a lineman training facility in Beaumont TX.
“I like to be knowledgeable about my sponsors,” he said. “I want to get a feeling of what the group’s all about.”
Bell went to Gateway last week and met some Ameren linemen, who gave him a ride up in a bucket to get a lineman’s view of the Arch and riverfront. They also treated Bell to some trash talk between Missouri and Illinois crews.
“It’s a brotherhood,” Bell said. “It’s really neat, seeing the way they come together and support each other.”
Bell is donating 10 percent of his winnings to the Fallen Linemen Organization.
Bell is looking for good results at Gateway, a track he has run before and likes a lot.
“It’s a great race track,” he said. “Each end is different, so there’s a little bit of give and take.”
TICKETS AND INFORMATION
For race tickets, go to gatewaymsp.com or call 618-215-8888.
For more information on the Fallen Linemen’s Organization, visit fallenlinemen.org.