After not making a single NASCAR Xfinity Sequence begin final season, Will Rodgers is again.
The four-time ARCA Menards Sequence winner will pilot the No. 26 Sam Hunt Racing Toyota Supra for a number of races this season, starting at Nashville Superspeedway subsequent month, a venue NASCAR is returning to for the primary time in a decade.
“It’s a reasonably impartial website the place there received’t be as many house discipline benefits as some tracks are to extra skilled guys,” crew proprietor Sam Hunt tells Frontstretch. “With Will’s companions, it was only a good place. Gonna be a preferred weekend, I believe it was a house run so far as scheduling that first race.”
Rodgers brings GoodRx as one in all his companions to SHR. However this partnership between Rodgers and Hunt, longtime opponents within the Ok&N Professional Sequence turned mates, is greater than racing.
What Is Your Objective? I’m proud to announce my partnership with @GoodRx & @orasure, supporting our first marketing campaign to advocate for liver well being! Race To Finish Hep C will assist drive consciousness, training, testing and remedy for Hepatitis C. #racetoendhepc #nascar pic.twitter.com/OWZCGC5ZyM
— Will Rodgers (@willrodgers65) June 8, 2021
— Sam Hunt Racing (@Team_SHR26) June 8, 2021
On the age of three, Rodgers was recognized with Major Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), a power liver illness. He’s now wholesome and lives along with his situation, which is underneath management, on daily basis. However has used his racing as an avenue to convey extra consciousness concerning liver ailments to most people.
He began the Will Rodgers Liver Well being Basis (a 501(c)(3) group) two years in the past and is now intertwined with a brand new philanthropic marketing campaign to boost consciousness for hepatitis C (HPV): RaceToEndHepC.com.
I am very excited to debut the Will Rodgers @liverhealthfdn this weekend at Utah Motorsports Campus! The inspiration is all about filling a wanted hole within the house and offering assist for individuals who endure liver well being points. Go comply with the WRLHF web page! @liverhealthfdn pic.twitter.com/89HMx5FmV5
— Will Rodgers (@willrodgers65) June 24, 2020
“We’re stepping into this clearly utilizing NASCAR as a platform and voice to tens of millions of individuals,” Rodgers tells Frontstretch. “However what it’s actually about helps eradicate ailments like hepatitis C, one thing that’s been curable for nearly a decade now. But tens of millions of individuals undergo from these situations.”
Rodgers realizes that the subject could be a bit taboo, particularly with hep C being related solely as a sexually transmitted illness, however is taking a look at this as a chance to assist the general public be taught concerning the cures which can be obtainable and accessible to fight the virus.
“That is my time and that is my option to get up and advocate for a trigger that’s completely achievable for us to eradicate it.”
Over the past couple years away from the nationwide sequence, Rodgers has saved a lot busy. Whereas build up his basis and dealing with SpaceStation Gaming within the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Sequence, he works part-time as an teacher on the BMW Efficiency Heart. To not point out he’s run in a handful of ARCA races and has additionally frolicked teaching up-and-coming drivers on highway programs like Hailie Deegan, Jake Drew, Trevor Huddleston, Jesse Love and others.
Hunt had no reservations of placing Rodgers within the seat regardless of his time away, citing his situational consciousness and talent to do extra with much less as a primary issue for slotting him into the No. 26.
“I’ve acquired full religion in him,” Hunt says. “Will’s a man that I’ve actually thought extremely of for years courting again to Ok&N racing. How he carries himself and the way arduous he so works for every alternative. I believe that makes this complete deal thrilling for me. Will has simply labored so arduous with these companions, pushing to race for a much bigger trigger, seeing it begin to acquire traction and have a platform to kick off with is thrilling.”
Rodgers and Hunt have comparable backgrounds in racing, each unceremoniously scratching and clawing their manner for any alternative in any respect, simply to be knocked again down time after time. The 2 relate to one another, and see slightly little bit of themselves in each other.
“It’s the rationale why I picked (Sam Hunt Racing),” Rodgers says. “They put forth the trouble. They present that despite the fact that there should not lots of peaks (in racing) and there are lots of valleys, they’ll get via it.”
Says Hunt: “It’s enjoyable having somebody like Will, somebody that has comparable experiences. You’re on the identical web page about so much proper off the bat. Situational consciousness, expectations, what goes into this on a everyday degree. A driver that’s been within the trenches his complete life, so he’s acquired an appreciation for the remainder of these guys that dwell within the trenches.”
This might be Rodgers’ second ever NASCAR begin in a Toyota, following the 2016 Ok&N West race at Evergreen, and he’s already benefiting from it. Hunt and Rodgers have each frolicked within the TRD simulator collectively preparing for Nashville, because it’s each their first journeys to the 1.33-mile D-shaped oval.
Hunt is trustworthy about his perspective as a 27-year-old crew proprietor, citing his mantra of “crawl, stroll, run” of constructing his crew, that’s been round for the reason that finish of 2019, up brick by brick.
“I’ll by no means say we’ve got the most effective automotive within the storage, or we’ve got the largest crew within the storage. I’m very trustworthy with my enterprise,” he says. “I believe Will suits that mould very nicely and has gone via comparable experiences all through his driving profession.”
Rodgers is not any stranger bringing new firms into NASCAR, however to take action with GoodRx, a big, comparatively new but profitable one which has helped tens of millions of individuals with their medical wants has him “very, very excited to guide that cost.”
A part of his pleasure concerning the brand new marketing campaign was evident when he helped Hunt be taught concerning the fundamentals about HCV, which is a liver an infection attributable to HCV, and is unfold via contact with blood from an contaminated particular person.
Rodgers pointed to new science rising and customary sanitization practices which have been applied within the twenty first century as a serious shift from HCV going from one thing that’s “bizarre to speak about” to one thing that’s simply part of the conventional lexicon relating to diseases.
“Prior to now 2-3 months (all the brand new data) was information to me,” Hunt says. “And it’s most likely going to be information for lots of different individuals, too.”
Says Rodgers: “What we’re actually making an attempt to do is break down the adverse stigma and the limitations to assist individuals perceive that it’s not simply doubtlessly affected (through STD). You might be any age, of be of any gender, any race and it may possibly occur to you. However there may be remedy for it. In case you take the mandatory steps for training, testing and remedy, it’s curable.”
Whereas Nashville will the primary race with GoodRx on the automotive, no different extra races on Rodgers’ schedule have been instantly introduced. Given his intensive highway course background (two of his 4 Xfinity begins and all 4 of his Ok&N victories are on highway programs), one might count on Rodgers to run at any or all the upcoming occasions at Highway America, Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s highway course, Watkins Glen Worldwide and/or the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.
When requested concerning the future races Rodgers will run, Hunt mentioned with a smirk that “there’s a great likelihood” they’ll be on highway programs.
“He’s going to have the ability to inform us so much that we might now even know,” Hunt says. “However he’s additionally humble concerning the oval stuff and the truth that he hasn’t been within the automotive. He desires to make use of Nashville to stand up to hurry, work with the fellows, construct up a pocket book as a driver with our crew, and get all people on the identical web page to set us up for achievement.”
With race one of many Rodgers/SHR partnership on the horizon, each events are taking a look at this as the start of one thing particular, on and off the racetrack.
“I’m not trying to come right here and simply race, then stroll proper out the door,” Rodgers says. “I’m searching for a spot the place we are able to plant roots, be assured in this system we’ve got not solely on the racetrack however off. We will combat adversity collectively.”