By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
MOORESVILLE, N.C. – After being cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Stocks for Tots returned to its’ mission of benefitting children during the holiday season for the 32nd year.
The North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame organized event had a different feel in its’ return. Due to restrictions, the event moved from the NASCAR Technical Institute to the Charles Mack Citizen Center in Mooresville, N.C. The silent auction and event store also did not make an appearance due to the limited space in the Charles Mack Citizen Center.
“You have to think about (the fact that) we didn’t have [Stocks for Tots] at all last year,” Don Miller, N. C. Auto Racing Hall of Fame Board of Directors, explained. “Everyone has been very careful. We had good spacing between the drivers. I think everybody was very courteous and kept on moving. It was an excellent event. We’ll do it again (next year).”
An estimated 200-300 fans paid to participate and get autographs and photos with various drivers and motorsports personalities. Tickets to Stocks for Tots ranged from $20 to $100 each or were also available via the donation of an unwrapped toy. Over the years, the Don Miller organized event has raised thousands for the Iredell County chapter of PHAROS Parenting (formerly known as SCAN, Stop Child Abuse Now).
“Hell yeah (it’s refreshing to have the fans back), all you have to do is ask them,” Miller stated. “They were so thankful that we could have Stocks for Tots. I was thankful to the Town of Mooresville to do what they did, open all three rooms (of the Charles Mack Citizen Center) up like this. They were very, very gracious. I can only be thankful.
“This is not about autographs. This is about people getting together to help the children. It’s Christmas. That’s why I think it’s so important.”
Over 60 motorsports drivers and personalities participated in the charity event including NASCAR Cup Series drivers Austin Cindric, Corey LaJoie, Harrison Burton, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, and Todd Gilliland. Drivers from the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Camping World Truck Series, current and former NHRA, and Legends Cars were also on hand.
For Burton, it marked the one of the first returns to normalcy since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, it was the first autograph session that he could remember taking part in this year.
“It’s awesome to raise money for any cause like this,” Burton admitted. “To have a reason like this for fans to come out is really cool. It’s always cool to hang out with the fans, but everyone’s working together here to do good, and that’s a good thing. It’s strange, been a while since I’ve even done an autograph session. Being out here and doing this is cool for me, for our sport. Good to see things going back in the right direction.”
Amongst the media personalities in attendance were Matthew Dillner of Dirty Mo’ Media and Lost Speedways, Ralph Sheheen of Speed Sport, Winston Kelly from the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Motor Racing Network, and Humpy Wheeler. NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers Bobby Allison and Jerry Cook, as well as legends such as Dave Marcis, Donnie Allison, Joe Nemechek, and Shawna Robinson also signed autographs.
For Dillner, the 32nd Annual Stocks for Tots event was his first. He found out about Stocks for Tots while at Bobby Allison’s birthday party at Corine’s Café in Mooresville.
“Honestly, and its’ embarrassing to say this, I didn’t know about this event,” admitted Dillner. “Then learning what it does through the admission and people bringing gifts, it really opened my eyes. I think it’s a really neat event. To see the broad spectrum of people that are here from legends of the sport to current drivers to media members, I didn’t expect this. Really, pleasantly surprised.”
As fans filed through, getting autographs, photos, and selfies, many chatted with Dillner and others. Most that stopped by the Lost Speedways co-host talked about the show on Peacock. Dillner plans to return to Stocks for Tots in 2022.
“I thought that maybe they’d have me signing in a closet or a bathroom,” Dillner joked. “They actually had me near Jerry Cook. Growing up a Modified guy, Jerry Cook is one of the all-time greats. I’m going to come back as long as they ask me because this is a pretty cool event. Next year I hope to learn about (Stocks for Tots) earlier and put the word out. The crowd we got tonight blew me away. We were supposed to sign until 8:30 and its 9:30 and there’s still people in line wanting autographs, this is cool.”
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Seth Eggert / Kickin’ the Tires.