11-Year-Old Summer Shootout Driver Hunter Stewart Turns His Family's Experience Into An Opportunity to Help Others With Racing 2 Cure Foundation
The path to racing success has taken many twists and turns for Hunter Stewart, of Mooresville, N.C. At just 11 years old, Stewart, who drives in the Bandolero Bandits division in the Summer Shootout Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway, has already watched his mother endure two grueling battles with breast cancer. Yet the youngster has remained positive and focused through it all and has even turned his family's difficult situation into an opportunity to help others going through the same experience.
In 2007, when he was only 7 years old, Stewart started his motorsports career, racing off-road trophy trucks in southern California. He was following in the footsteps of his father, Todd, who previously raced
Baja endurance races in Mexico.
"My ultimate goal is to go big in NASCAR or off-road racing one day, just like my dad," said Hunter.
Just weeks before he was scheduled to compete in his first race, the Stewart family learned that Hunter's mom, Alycia, was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. She was just 34 years old. Despite the devastating news, the family agreed that Hunter's racing future should continue.
After attending an event sponsored by Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the leading breast cancer research organization in the country, Hunter became motivated to help other families that were affected by the crippling effects of cancer. He decided to display a Susan G. Komen for the Cure logo on his race truck to help spread the word about cancer research and awareness. He even sported pink shoe laces and donated his weekly allowance to Susan B. Komen for the Cure.
Hunter received such a positive reaction to his efforts after just one race that many people at the racetrack and in the surrounding community got behind his breast cancer awareness and fundraising initiatives. The local media got wind of Hunter's story and featured him on multiple news segments in San Diego, Calif. National magazines including "Forbes" and "Auto Week" also wrote articles about Hunter's efforts and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres featured him on "The Ellen Show."
"Life takes different turns, like on a racetrack, and always has some positives come out of the negatives," said Alycia. "We were so proud of Hunter for what he was doing, reaching out to kids and families and trying to keep a positive attitude."
Hunter continued to race while Alycia endured several painful surgeries and draining treatments for her cancer. She went into remission for three years and during that time, the Stewarts relocated from California to Mooresville. Just weeks before the cross-country move however, the family received more devastating news: Alycia was diagnosed with a form of stage III breast cancer.
The Stewart family then decided to put Hunter's racing career on hold so they could focus on Alycia's treatment. However, they wanted to continue to support Hunter's breast cancer awareness and fundraising efforts so in 2009 Alicia and Todd Stewart worked with their son to create Racing 2 Cure to "fight cancer one lap at a time." The foundation raises funds for Susan G. Komen for the Cure and helps families battling breast cancer directly offset everyday expenses like transportation, medical equipment and insurance premiums. Racing 2 Cure will debut a new website in the coming weeks that will let racers from all over the country raise money for breast cancer support and research.
"When my mom had breast cancer both times, life for our family was chaos at best," said Hunter. "I felt like something needed to be done for others going through the same thing."
Even though Hunter is now just 11 years old, his mother says he has the heart and compassion of an adult.
"He cares about a lot of different types of people," Alycia said. "He tries to go out and reach other people, explaining what cancer is through racing."
In January, 2011, Ruston Racing Development wanted to reward Hunter for his hard work and dedication and offered to supply the youngster with a Bandolero car for the 2011 race season. In just three rounds of Summer Shootout competition at Charlotte Motor Speedway this season, Hunter has captured two feature wins in the Bandolero Bandits division.
"I just want to have fun this summer and continue to raise money for Racing 2 Cure to help others that are affected by cancer," he said.
For more information on Racing 2 Cure, visit www.racing2cure.org.
The Summer Shootout Series continues Tuesday, June 28, with Media Mayhem school bus racing presented by R&R Bar-B-Que and a full docket of Legend Car and Bandolero racing action. The seven-week, 10-race series runs each Tuesday night through July 26, with select Monday night races on July 4 and July 25.
Each week, tickets for the 18th annual Summer Shootout Series are just $7 for adults and $3 for kids 6 to 12. Children 5 and under get in free. Tickets are available in advance at the speedway ticket office and at Gates 4 and 5 the night of the event. Parking is free. Spectator gates open at 4:30 p.m. with racing action beginning at 5 p.m.
During Summer Shootout Round Four on June 28, the first 1,000 kids through the gate will receive a free pair of swim goggles. Moms and dads can enter to win a free family vacation at the Dunes Village Resort, courtesy of MyrtleBeachHotels.com.
For more information on the Summer Shootout Series, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.
Connect with Charlotte Motor Speedway on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CLTMotorSpdwy or become a Facebook fan at www.facebook.com/charlottemotorspeedway.