Kobe Bryant might not have been involved in NASCAR but his presence was definitely felt in the garage. When Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash, the NASCAR community paid tribute to the Black Mamba.
Now that NASCAR is heading to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, NASCAR and the speedway will be honoring everybody during this weekend’s race. In addition to a “24” that will be painted on the infield, the prerace invocation will recognize all nine people who were killed.
Auto Club Speedway will pay tribute to @KobeBryant this weekend with:
➖ 24 painted on infield turf.
➖ Mention of Bryant/others lost during invocation.
➖ Memorial display that fans can write on.
➖ Track will send display and donation to Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation. pic.twitter.com/KECaVpZP6k
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) February 25, 2020
Some drivers are also paying tribute in their own way. William Byron, driver of the #24 Chevrolet, will have a tribute paint scheme through Axalta according to SBJ’s Adam Stern.
Daniel Suárez, driver of the #96 Toyota, is going to be wearing a pair of purple and gold racing gloves and shoes during the Auto Club 400 and will auction them off after the race for the Mamba On Three Fund.
It is my honor to wear these this weekend as a tribute to #KobeBryant, Gianna & the seven other victims of the tragedy. 🙏🏽💜💛 Shoes & Gloves are on auction w/ 100% of proceeds going to the #MambaOnThree Fund. $5000 minimum will be donated. #MambaForever https://t.co/ZhO5zesLbr pic.twitter.com/jETB8G94SE
— Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) February 25, 2020
One of the biggest, and possibly most personal tributes is from Ryan Blaney. Blaney is sponsored by Bodyarmor, the sports drink company in which Kobe was an investor in and was on the board of directors. Through Bodyarmor, the two met and talked for nearly 20 minutes, resulting in Ryan giving Kobe his firesuit and Kobe giving Ryan a signed copy of his book. Blaney revealed his Black Mamba themed purple and gold #12 Ford he’ll be racing this weekend and said that money raised from merchandise sales will also go to the Mamba On Three Fund.
Honored that @drinkBODYARMOR is running a Kobe Bryant tribute scheme this weekend. I was fortunate enough to meet Kobe & this is a great way to honor him, Gianna & all the victims. Stay tuned for merch details and all proceeds will go to https://t.co/WdOVfr5mRk. #MambaMentality pic.twitter.com/UrtylAIsCK
— Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) February 25, 2020
The snakeskin look is very sharp and is a nice touch, making for a wonderful tribute. In his first two races this season, Blaney finished inches short of winning the Daytona 500. This past weekend, Blaney was on his way to winning in Las Vegas but his crew chief told him to pit under caution late in the race and he finished 11th. Maybe Ryan can bring some Mamba Mentality with him this weekend and win in Kobe’s car.