NASCAR is heading to southern California for Sunday's Auto Club 400 in Fontana, California. Several tributes for Kobe Bryant are expected following Monday's celebration of life memorial. Driver Ryan Blaney just unveiled his paint scheme that honors both Bryant and his daughter Gianna.
Honored that @drinkBODYARMOR is running a Kobe Bryant tribute scheme this weekend. I was fortunate enough to meet Kobe & this is a great way to honor him, Gianna & all the victims. Stay tuned for merch details and all proceeds will go to https://t.co/WdOVfr5mRk. #MambaMentality pic.twitter.com/UrtylAIsCK— Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) February 25, 2020
Blaney's No. 12 Ford Mustang prominently features yellow in the paint scheme, but the new version will add purple to represent the Los Angeles Lakers and the time that Bryant spent with the team. The design was created by Body Armor, a company that produces sports drinks. According to ESPN's Ryan McGee, Bryant was on Body Armor's board of directors.
Blaney's car will be covered in scales, referencing Bryant's "Mamba" nickname. The rear of the vehicle also shows two Mambas and the numbers "2" and "24" to represent Bryant and Gianna. These are the numbers they wore on their basketball jerseys.
"Wow! Love the paint scheme you're running in honor of Kobe, Gianna and the other victims," one NASCAR fan wrote on Twitter. Others called for diecast versions of the Bryant tribute vehicle to be released for purchase.
Blaney's design is the first to be unveiled, but it is not the only Bryant tribute expected to surface in the days leading up to the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400. William Byron – who drives the No. 24 Chevrolet – is believed to be representing Bryant with a paint scheme of his own during Sunday's race.
In addition to possible paint schemes on the vehicles, there will be other tributes to Bryant during the race weekend. Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal reported that "24" will be painted on the infield turf. In addition, Bryant and the other victims of the helicopter crash will be mentioned during the opening invocation.
While the Auto Club Speedway will be honoring Bryant and the other victims, the track will also be striving to raise money for the late NBA icon's foundation. Stern reported that there will be a memorial display that fans can write on, which will be sent to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, along with a donation.
(Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)