Local boy a good luck charm for racer
by Anna Oakes
But he never imagined the trip would take him to Victory Lane.
Brady, a Valle Crucis Elementary student and NASCAR fan who was diagnosed with Stage IV Burkitt's lymphoma in January, recently completed his seventh round of chemotherapy at Wake Forest Brenners Children's Hospital in Winston-Salem.
As a tribute to Brady, who returned home in time to watch the race on television, Bowyer's team Michael Waltrip Racing removed Bowyer's name from above the passenger-side door of his No. 15 Toyota and replaced it with Brady's name and a lime green ribbon, a symbol of the fight against lymphoma.
A large lime green ribbon also adorned the rear driver's side of the vehicle, and, when not wearing his helmet, Bowyer sported a black ball cap with Brady's name in green alongside the logo of lead sponsor 5-hour Energy.
"I have Brady Bakken riding with us this wk. An 11 year old battling stage 3 Lymphoma, Hang in there little buddy!!!" Bowyer tweeted on June 22, two days before the race.
Team owner and NASCAR veteran Michael Waltrip chimed in June 22 with a tweet of his own: "Thinking about you Brady. Get well soon."
Bowyer held off late challenges by Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch to win the sixth race of his career at the Sonoma road course. During the televised post-race interview, Bowyer used the opportunity to give a shout-out to Brady, saying, "I want to say hi to 11-year-old Brady back home. Eleven years old with stage III Lymphoma — hang in there buddy, we're praying for you, and this one's for you."
Brady, who remains engaged with thousands of his supporters through social media and his CaringBridge webpage, on Sunday posted on Facebook, "Today was the BEST day of my life. THANKS CLINT BOWYER #15 and Congrats."
Brady's dad, Brett Bakken, is a sales broker for 5-hour Energy, and the company's vice president of sales arranged for the tribute, Brett Bakken said.
"Brady was absolutely thrilled," Brett said. "We thought it was going to be something real simple. The fact that Clint won the race was just over the top. He couldn't believe it."
Bowyer's tribute to Brady was mentioned throughout countless news stories and broadcasts, and on Wednesday, NASCAR Now on Sirius/XM will interview Brett about Bowyer's win and what it meant to Brady.
"Here's a guy who hasn't run a race for a little while, and he takes a few seconds at the end (of the race) to think about Brady," said Brett.
Brady has been so strong throughout the rigors of cancer treatment that his nurses at Brenners commented that "he is one of the only kids that they can remember who has stayed on schedule (with chemotherapy)," Brett said.
Brady goes in for additional tests later this week.
"He's just been a real trooper. He's kept a sense of humor. He's just been a lot braver than I would have been," said Brett.
For more information about Brady and to learn more about Burkitt's lymphoma, visit http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/bradybakken.