My name is Darrel Hamilton and I am currently the Thunder Roadster series leader for NASA Southeast. I didn’t know how much the NASA Southeast folks were family until we had a personal tragedy.
During the Winter Meltdown at Carolina Motorsports Park, we were home because we couldn’t get the rig out due to snowfall. Our home caught fire and burned to the ground. Donna and I moved our street cars, my work truck, our motorhome parked next to the house, a tractor and a side-by-side. We lost everything else we owned, including the racecar. To make matters worse, we work from home, so we lost our place of business. We have good insurance, but the racecar was not covered.
As soon as our NASA Southeast family found out, there were boxes sent and visits from our friends bearing gifts of clothing, and so many other things it is impossible to list them all here. While at CMP that weekend and unbeknownst to us, Randy and Nancy Suddreth, Will Miller and others approached Jim and Julie Pantas with an idea to help Donna and me get back on track. Jim and Julie raffled off the entry fees for one person for the entire 2017 race season. The drawing was to be held at the awards dinner March 12 at the “Race for the Pi” at Road Atlanta.
When we found out about the raffle, there was no way Donna and I were going to miss the event. We arrived at the track late Friday afternoon and went to say hello to all of our fellow drivers and friends. I thought I was going to hang out with my friends and maybe drink a beer or two. Lee Roberts invited me into his trailer and handed me a Hans and a fire suit that he said he “no longer needed.” The next morning, after the all-hands meeting, he and my fellow Roadster drivers escorted me to the Discovery Parts trailer and finished outfitting me with the rest of my safety gear, helmet, shoes, socks, gloves, arm restraints, etc. Randy Suddreth brought an extra car, so I had something to drive! I couldn’t believe it.
At the awards dinner Saturday night, Jim Pantas brought Donna and me up front and presented us with the raffle proceeds: over $11,000! Donna’s brother Glen, set up a GoFundMe page also to help get us back on track and many of our NASA Southeast family contributed, raising over $3,000!
Julie Pantas also found replacements for my first- and second-place championship trophies lost in the fire. In addition to the financial support, I have lost count of the people from NASA who have offered to come and help us rebuild our home.
I want to publicly thank each and every one who has so generously given of their time and resources. The love and caring that has been shown to us is beyond anything I have ever experienced. The wonderful people involved with NASA Southeast led by Jim and Julie Pantas exemplify what family truly means. We love you guys! — Darrel and Donna Hamilton