Drivers, teams to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at Fontana

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One day after an emotional tribute to Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna, among nine people killed in a helicopter crash last month north of Los Angeles, two NASCAR drivers will have their own tributes to Bryant this weekend at Auto Club Speedway.

Ryan Blaney will carry a special paint scheme on his No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang by primary sponsor for the race, BodyArmor.

Blaney was among millions to mourn Bryant after his death.

“I was fortunate enough to meet Kobe and this is a great way to honor him, Gianna and all the victims,” Blaney said in a tweet:

Daniel Suarez will wear specially designed driving gloves and matching shoes that bear the likeness of Bryant and his jersey numbers 8 and 24 in the Lakers’ purple and gold colors. Suarez will also wear a No. 24 jersey to honor Bryant during driver introductions before Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

In addition, Suarez’s No. 96 Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota will carry the names of all the victims of the crash.

Both drivers are adherents to Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality.”

“Mamba mentality is what Kobe always said and one of the great things he is known for,” Suarez said in a media release. “That’s what it’s all about. That’s something you have to have inside of you, to be hungry, to go out there and get out of that comfort zone. Kobe was a huge role model. I want to give back the way Kobe used to give back.

“To give back, we’re going to auction off the gloves and shoes after the race to try and donate as much money as possible to the Mamba Foundation. We’re going to put a minimum of a $5,000 donation into this foundation. I have opinions about many athletes, but I’ve always admired most the ones who are not only great at their game, but great outside their game. Kobe was that kind of athlete, and that kind of a person.”

Richard Childress Racing announced Tuesday that Tyler Reddick‘s No. 8 Cup car will honor Bryant with a decal on the car.

William Byron‘s No. 24 Chevrolet also will pay tribute to Bryant with a special paint for this weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

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