AVONDALE, Ariz. — Joey Logano was humbled this week after attending the funeral for a 5-year-old NASCAR fan who died from juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia.
Jake Leatherman died Nov. 1.
Logano, Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Ellis and crew members from the teams of Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, Logano and others were there at the request of Leatherman’s mother, Crystal.
She asked a TV anchor in Charlotte, North Carolina, who previously had featured Leatherman if the anchor knew of anyone in NASCAR who could attend the service in uniform and carry her son’s casket.
“I want to give my son the sendoff he deserves,” Crystal Leatherman wrote. “He recently got into NASCAR and absolutely loves Richard Petty. He loved calling him ‘The King’. But Jake loves a lot of the other cars as well. The Lowe’s car. The M&M’s U.S.A. car. Lots of cars. He loved them all. I was wondering if you knew anyone who would be willing to come in uniform and help carry my baby?”
Logano heard about the request from his wife last weekend while at Texas Motor Speedway.
“I walked into the bus after qualifying on Friday night, and she was inside crying,’’ Logano said of wife Brittany. “She had just watched the video and told me about him and how he was a big race fan and I thought it would be cool if we could do something for his funeral.’’
Logano, who wore his firesuit to the service, and his wife brought a race suit with Leatherman’s name on it. Because the child was a fan of Richard Petty, they put a No. 43 on the uniform.
“The whole racing community got into this,’’ Logano said Friday at Phoenix International Raceway. “It wasn’t just Brittany and myself. It was one of the most real moments, one of the proudest moments I have been a part of in this NASCAR community. To come together as one team and be NASCAR as a whole for a child who looked at us as superheroes. That is how his family members described what he thought of NASCAR.
“We all came together and were all there for him, but we didn’t get to meet him and give him his race suit and how cool he would have thought that was. To see all his heroes and pit crew members there that day would have been very special.
“I have never been to a funeral for a child before. That is probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was definitely eye-opening and it puts life into perspective. I don’t have a kid yet but I can’t even imagine – watching his mom and dad and sister and grandparents all there it tore my heart out.”
Watch is a video report from the Charlotte TV station on the service.