Monday night, Marcus Smith and Darrell and Michael Waltrip kicked off both Speedway Christmas and the Season of Giving at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The trio flipped the switch on over 3 million lights, helped give out the yearly grants to local organizations on behalf of Speedway Children’s Charities (SCC) and presented a tractor trailer full of food and supplies to NASCAR driver Morgan Shepherd to support his charitable efforts.

As part of the celebration, Smith, with a little help from Santa Claus, distributed toys to more than 125 children representing local organizations assisted by SCC in 2012, including Victory Junction Gang Camp, Cabarrus County Partnership for Children and A Child’s Place of Charlotte.

In 2012, 37 different organizations, which impact more than 30,000 children locally, will benefit from SCC grant funding.

“Giving really is the best part of Thanksgiving,” said Smith, president of the Charlotte Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities. “So what better way to kick off the holiday week than by helping so many worthy organizations in their efforts to serve children in need in our community.”

Also as part of the speedway’s Season of Giving, NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip and 1996 All-Star Race winner Michael Waltrip were on hand to make a special presentation. Several NASCAR drivers teamed up to buy the NASCAR on FOX “Big Rig of Help,” an 18-wheeler stocked with 20,000 pounds of food donated by Speedway Children’s Charities. The Waltrips and Smith surprised Shepherd Monday evening with the food-laden truck, which will benefit 400 families.

“Morgan is a devoted Christian who lives out his beliefs, working tirelessly year after year to provide for those in need in Galax and Stuart, Va.,” Darrell Waltrip said. “So the WBCC, several NASCAR drivers and the Speedway Children’s Charities pitched in to help him with this monumental effort.  Morgan is a very respected driver, and just like his race team, does a lot with a little.  This trailer full of food will help him reach more people and make someone else’s life a little brighter, just as he does for those of us who know him.”

Shepherd has made the same trek to Stuart and Galax, Va. for the past 25 years to share Christmas joy with families in need.

Along with Monday’s presentation to Shepherd, the Waltrips also presented Feed The Children and Motor Racing Outreach with $100,000 checks, each raised at this year’s Waltrip Brothers’ Charity Championship.

Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr. joined the Waltrips in donating money toward the purchase of the truck, which Shepherd’s organization will take to Virginia on Dec. 17 as part of his annual charity trip. Along with Monday’s presentation to Shepherd, the Waltrips also presented Feed The Children and Motor Racing Outreach with $100,000 checks each raised at this year’s Waltrip Brothers’ Charity Championship.

“Darrell and I have been so blessed with loads of support for our fundraiser each year, so we’re honored to be able to channel that to reach even more needy people through Morgan Shepherd this year,” Michael Waltrip said.  “The NASCAR, sports and country music community gave selflessly this year, and it’s nice to see their generosity also pay off for the folks in Virginia.  Morgan has been a ‘Santa Claus’ to them, and what he does every year is just awesome.”

Following the presentations, the Waltrip brothers and Smith led hundreds of families through the opening night of the 3.5-mile Speedway Christmas light show.   

Since the organization was founded in 1982, Speedway Children’s Charities has raised more than $47 million and made a difference in the lives of more than 11.3 million children across the United States. The children who have been helped over the last 30 years would fill the stands of the eight SMI tracks more than nine times.

With the help of volunteers and the support of sponsors, SCC raises money through various fundraising activities such as track walks, auctions, raffles, holiday light displays, annual galas and more. Individual and corporate donations are also made throughout the year.

Operating hours for Speedway Christmas will be 6 to 10 p.m., nightly through Dec. 30, excluding Christmas Day. Tickets are available online or at the gate nightly during event hours for drive-up traffic. Admission is just $15 per car on nights the Christmas village is closed and $20 per car on nights the village is open. Group packages are available.

The Coca-Cola Family Ice Rink, sponsored by New Life 91.9FM will be open daily through Jan. 21, excluding Christmas Day. Admission is $12, which includes skate rentals. For information about group outings call 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or for private events at the rink, call Extreme Ice Center at 704-778-1208.

For more information about events, camping or tickets, call 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com. For daily updates from The Greatest Place to See The Race, connect with Charlotte Motor Speedway on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CLTMotorSpdwy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/charlottemotorspeedway.