ALGER — The graphic design of race cars can serve many purposes.
Some cars are billboards that show off the driver’s sponsors; others sport the names of pit-crew members. For more creative flourishes, the cars may feature comical nicknames or lavishly designed cartoon characters.
Skagit Speedway regular T.J. Campbell made sure his car served a more sober purpose this year — one he hopes catches attention and raises awareness of a cause that’s close to home.
The hood of Campbell’s car, which he races in the outlaw tuner division, has several names on it. They were written by friends and neighbors to honor loved ones who have survived or were battling cancer.
In previous seasons, the Sedro-Woolley driver has painted his car to match more lighthearted themes, such as the year his car’s style mimicked the ambulance from “Ghostbusters.”
This year, while casting about for a theme, he found a website for a cancer charity.
“I’m sitting at the computer, and I find an article on a girl fighting cancer. It touched me more and more,” Campbell said.
He reached out to the mentioned group, the American Childhood Cancer Organization, and received logos and bracelets to give out. He also got a plush toy of the type used to comfort children when they receive their diagnosis; on a recent Saturday before races were set to begin, the toy was displayed proudly in his window.
Campbell lost an aunt to cancer, he said, and knew others who had grueling fights with the disease. He learned more people had similar stories as extended family members, friends and neighbors signed his hood to support his season.
“This is a personal year for me. I think of it like I’m fighting cancer one lap at a time,” Campbell said.
That fight has needed allies. Like many outlaw tuner drivers, Campbell relied on help from fellow drivers and crews to get his season revved up; he needed a way to haul his car to the track, and several friends and competitors pitched in.
Fellow driver Adam Holtrop, who has raced and won in several classifications this season, was one of them.
“We ended up helping him rebuild the car and get it all right,” Holtrop said. “He’s always running for a cause — can’t remember the last time he raced for himself. He always has something on his car for the kids, for veterans ... he always has something going on for somebody.”
Campbell said he’ll find a different theme next year. But he won’t forget the fight against cancer.
The hood with all the signatures will go up on his wall. And if he wins before the season ends, he has a banner with the anti-cancer message to raise, he said.
“When I get a win, I’ll hold it up as high as I can,” he said.