Venturini Motorsports Teams with Nikki’s Foundation to Cast Awareness on Distracted Driving EpidemicFebruary 11, 2014
Concord, NC (February 11, 2014) - Venturini Motorsports (VMS) and New Jersey-based non-profit organization Nikki’s Foundation, ‘People Against Distracted Driving®,' or PADD, have formed a partnership to help raise awareness for drivers of all ages on the dangers of distracted driving, commonly associated with text messaging behind the wheel.
Founded in 2012, PADD is the creation of Mike Kellenyi in memory of his 18-year-old daughter, Nikki, who tragically lost her life in a car crash as a result of a distracted driver, one month prior to her high school prom. PADD, an official 501(c)(3) charitable organization, works locally and nationally to spread the awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, provide support for families affected by such tragedies, and pass new laws to educate motorists for stricter enforcement and punishment of distracted driving-related offenses. Within two years, it has become one of the fastest growing non-profit groups in the country.
According to statistics provided by PADD, 23% of all motor vehicle accidents (1.3 million crashes) involved cell phones. In addition, text messaging while driving makes an accident 23 times more likely, with the longest eyes-off-the-road time of all distracted driving activities. Even more concerning, 77% of young adults are very or somewhat confident that they can safely text while driving.
Venturini Motorsports, a professional race team which competes in the national touring ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, along with the team's returning ARCA Rookie of the Year Justin Boston, will raise awareness of this modern-day epidemic in communities near tracks on the ARCA schedule.
As part of their year-long initiative, Boston and the team will provide PADD donated U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved, "Stay Alive Don't Text and Drive" signage to racing venues and local governments for placement along roadways near each track on the schedule. This community service safety initiative will bring ‘PADD’s’ message to 12 different states (Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania & Wisconsin.)
"Although the growing use of technology continues to make our lives more convenient, it comes at a cost," said Tom Venturini, team public relations director. "With virtually every American, young and old, relying heavily on the use of their smartphones to stay connected with up-to-the-minute news, communication, and social media, we’re now starting to realize the impact and upward trend of driving accidents and fatalities due to texting and distracted driving, especially among younger drivers.
"Racing is a high exposure sport with millions of fans stretched across the nation. If our involvement within the sport and commitment to promote safe and responsible driving through our relationship with PADD influences one person to think before texting and driving, we’ve accomplished our goal."
At the ARCA event on June 1 at New Jersey Motorsports Park, near the Kellenyi home, a benefit concert supporting Nikki's Foundation will take place before the race.
Kellenyi, PADD's driving force, is an avid race fan whose appreciation for the sport began when he met the racing family of NASCAR competitor Martin Truex Jr. and the driver himself, then a child, while working for the Truex family as a commercial fisherman in the Atlantic Ocean. He was actually racing online at home, just over a mile away from tragedy, at the time of his daughter's crash in April 2012. "I've always thought that racing is such a family orientated sport, just so different than all the other sports," Kellenyi said. "The people who are into racing, they stick behind their sponsors and stick behind their teams. When Nikki was killed, I happened to be racing at the time. The community in iRacing, they're all just regular racers; they were all so nice and did so much for me. At that t ime, I decided that I'm going to make a difference in racing somehow."
Kellenyi has taken Nikki's Foundation and its message to Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, where he spoke to fans and ushered a car (driven by Jake Griffin) with Nikki's Foundation colors onto the track. On iRacing, a PADD motorsports league he operates has over 100 members, and he says approximately 1000 cars run the PADD logo. He's taken the momentum from those exposures into the 2014 season, as he hopes to spread his message and his daughter's memory at all ARCA Racing Series events.
"This is more than just putting a name in a newspaper; it's a family-oriented deal," Kellenyi said. "My family's wrecked because of what happened, and I don't want it to happen to anyone else."
After PADD’s successful lobbying for “Nikki’s Law,” which requires the New Jersey Department of Transportation to warn motorists not to text while behind the wheel, Gov. Chris Christie signed the legislation last August. Later, the state introduced further distracted driving legislation, which provides tougher financial and legal penalties for offenders of the texting and handheld cell phone law.
Now, the opportunity with the Venturini team presents an opportunity to spread the message beyond New Jersey. "For me to say I'm so excited, it's almost like I shouldn't say it, because in losing Nikki, It’s difficult to be happy or excited about anything," Kellenyi said. "But I am; this is huge. The Venturinis are a really down-to-earth family, normal people. It's a family-run business, a perfect fit, and exactly what we were hoping for in a venture with anybody. It's the right image. They're good people who want to help young kids get behind the wheel and into racing.
"We will never really know when we save a life, because there's no crash to report. But what we can hope for is that in the months and years to come, the numbers start falling through awareness. Working with the Venturinis, they'll reach more people than I can think about."
PADD supports distracted driving victims and survivors at no charge, serving anyone who needs help 24 hours a day at 1-234-738-DTAD (3823). More information is available at PADD.org.
The Lucas Oil 200 presented by MAVTV American Real at Daytona International Speedway will air live on Fox Sports 1 at 4 p.m. on Saturday, February 15. Venturini Motorsports will enter four cars in its first race of ARCA's 62nd season, led by 2013 Daytona winner John Wes Townley and 2013 ARCA Rookie of the Year Justin Boston.
About Nikki’s Foundation / People Against Distracted Driving (PADD)
PADD, an official 501(c)(3) charitable organization was founded by Mike and Gina Kellenyi after their teenage daughter, Nikki, was killed by a distracted driver. People Against Distracted Driving® (PADD) is the nation’s largest growing nonprofit working to protect families from distracted driving. With the help of those who want a safer future, PADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Distracted Driving® will end this danger on America’s roads. And as one of the largest growing victim services organizations in the U.S., PADD also supports distracted driving victims and survivors at no charge, serving anyone who needs us 24 hours a day at 1-234-738-DTAD (3823). Our goal is to lower deaths and injury caused by distracted driving. Learn more at www.padd.org.
About Venturini Motorsports
Venturini Motorsports (VMS), fielding cars for over 30-years in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, is one of the premier NASCAR driver development programs in the country. Multiple team championships and consistent on-track success, VMS has evolved into one of the most recognizable names in motorsports. Since 2007, VMS has assisted in the career development of notable NASCAR drivers such as Joey Logano, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Brian Scott, Kevin Swindell, John Wes Townley and Erik Jones. Over the years the Venturini name has become synonymous with modern-day racing in America. In 2012, the Venturini family was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame (www.NIASHF.org) and now find themselves enshrined with such sports icons as Joe DiMaggio, Mario Andretti, Vince Lombardi, Tommy Lasorda a nd Rocky Marciano.
About ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards
The Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is among the leading auto racing sanctioning bodies in the country. Founded in 1953 by John and Mildred Marcum, the organization administers more than 100 events each year in multiple racing series, including the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, the ARCA/CRA Super Series, the ARCA Truck Series and the ARCA Midwest Tour, plus weekly racing at Toledo and Flat Rock Speedways.