In one of the final races before NASCAR postponed its season, drivers Ryan Blaney and William Byron payed tribute to the late NBA legend at the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, California.
NASCAR on Fox shared a video of Blaney’s car scheme, which was dedicated to the late Las Angeles Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant. The car has purple and gold colors, and a sign for the charitable site MambaOnThree.org. Blaney who drives the number 12 ford mustang for Penske Racing is sponsored by the sports drink company Bodyarmor. Kobe Bryant was both an investor and on the board of directors of the company, and Blaney met him through the organization in October 2019. We they met they had a conversation and the driver gifted him a race worn firesuit from his last regular season race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Blaney remembered that in those 20 minutes they shared, Bryant asked questions and tried to learn as much as he could about racing.
“Just the way he asked questions, [he] was so interested in it, to me I could see where they call it the ‘Mamba Mentality’ comes from and how he used it in basketball to become so great,” Blaney said. “That was the coolest moment. I don’t get star struck very often. I knew all the answers, but I was getting nervous that I would answer wrong when he was asking me questions, he knew nothing about. That’s just his atmosphere. It was technical stuff and shows what kind of amazing, intellectual person that he was. That was something that really tickled me, how excited he was to learn about it.”
It’s clear that even in his post-playing days Kobe stayed busy, and he was always eager to learn new things from any person or athlete’s perspective. Along with Ryan Blaney, William Byron also made some changes to his car for the race. For Bryon the driver of the number 24 Axalta Chevrolet, his normal paint scheme of blue with red flames turned into black, purple and gold for the Mamba.
“We continue to pray for all of the families. It’s humbling to be able to run such a special car, especially in the Los Angeles area. I’m a huge sports fan and followed Kobe’s career really closely like so many other people,” Byron said. “He left a legacy that goes beyond basketball and has reached across all of the sports world and into many different communities where he gave back. I’m very happy that Axalta wanted to do this, and I hope to make everyone proud in the No. 24 on Sunday.”
Going into the third race of the 2020 season for the drivers, Ryan Blaney sat 1st on top of the standings over last week’s winner Joey Logano, and Kevin Harvick. It is safe to say that Blaney has been using the mamba mentality thus far in the season as he has an average finish of 6.5 with 23 laps led. It is amazing to see how much a legend like Kobe Bryant meant to everyone in the world of sports, and how his legacy and the “Mamba Mentality” will carry out forever.
Photo Courtesy of Stacy Revere