The need for speed may be at the heart of race fans but the American Red Cross is asking for those to respond to the need to bleed by donating blood at the fourth annual 'Laps for Life' blood drive at Charlotte Motor Speedway from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 11.

The 'Laps for Life' blood drive begins with an opening ceremony at 9:30 a.m. on the Avenue of Flags by the speedway's ticket office and includes a moment of silence at 9:32 a.m. The event, which began three years ago as a way to remember 9/11 victims, their families and all of those impacted by the tragic events of that day, will be held in the Champions Pavilion in the infield of Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"It truly is amazing to see the dedication that donors exhibit for the 'Laps for Life' blood drive," said Sharon Pitt, CEO for the Red Cross Carolinas Blood Services Region. "We have donors who have attended each year, scheduling their donation time around this drive. The Red Cross continues to have an urgent need for blood and platelet donations so we hope to see that tradition continue as well as welcome new donors to give blood and honor those affected by 9/11 and our first responders."

Children will have the opportunity to slide down an inflatable slide and play interactive games at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Fan Van. Lug Nut, the world's fastest mascot, also will make an appearance.

All presenting donors will receive an opportunity to drive their own car around Charlotte Motor Speedway where they will feel the full-tilt force of the 24-degree banking for three paced laps. Donors also receive two tickets to Bojangles' Pole Night on Oct. 9, a free commemorative T-shirt and refreshments. Pre-registered donors who make an appointment and are present for their scheduled appointment also receive two tickets to the NASCAR Nationwide Series 300 Miles of Courage on Oct. 10.

"We are thrilled to partner with the American Red Cross again for the 'Laps for Life' blood drive to honor the brave men and women who were the first to respond on Sept. 11," said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. "We hope the gifts of speed we are providing to participants will only encourage more people to register to give the gift of life."

Appointments are encouraged for this drive. Appointments can be scheduled at redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Use sponsor code Laps for Life when scheduling.  

Right now, blood products are being distributed to hospitals as quickly as donations are coming in. While overall donations increased last month, donations in the local Carolinas Blood Services Region fell short of expectations by 1,719 pints. To prevent a shortage and ensure an adequate blood supply for patients the rest of the summer, the Red Cross especially needs platelet donors and those with types O negative, B negative and A negative blood.

How to donate blood

Simply call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver's license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.