Kobe Bryant: NASCAR to Honor Lakers Star, Helicopter Crash Victims During Auto Club 400

NASCAR will be heading to Fontana, California, this weekend for the Auto Club 400. This is the third Cup Series race of the 2020 season and the only race in Southern California. The focus will be on the racing, but the track will be taking an opportunity to honor Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the seven other victims of a Jan. 26 helicopter crash.

Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal reported on Tuesday that there are several plans in place to honor the victims prior to Sunday's race. This includes painting Bryant's jersey number, 24, on the infield turf. The victims will also be mentioned during the pre-race invocation.

For the fans attending the Auto Club 400, they will be given an opportunity to honor the victims of the crash. There will be a memorial display at the Auto Club Speedway, which fans can sign. This memorial will be sent to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation following the race. A donation will also be sent.

"The energy this weekend is going to be insane," one NASCAR fan wrote on Twitter after learning about the upcoming tributes to Bryant and the other victims. The expectation is that the fans would be excited for the Auto Club 400, but the energy would only increase with the tributes.

Bryant died on Jan. 26 when a helicopter carrying him to a basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks crashed in the hills above Calabasas. Along with Bryant and his daughter Gianna, the other victims in the crash were John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, and the pilot, Ara Zobayan.

The tributes at the track will not be the only mention of Bryant and Gianna during the Cup Series race. The drivers are also expected to honor them with their paint schemes. One example is the No. 12 Ford Mustang that will be driven by Ryan Blaney.

This vehicle will be showcasing a Mamba-inspired purple and yellow paint scheme that includes scales. There are also references to Bryant and Gianna, as well as the MambaOnThree Foundation that raises money for families of the other victims.

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Bryant made an impact on not only the NBA but he also was viewed as a legendary figure in Southern California. NASCAR recognizes this fact and will be striving to properly honor him and the other victims during Sunday's Auto Club 400 in Fontana.

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