Carl Dakes has been a devoted NASCAR fan for more than 40 years and can recite his own list of the sport’s basics:
American pride, family, friends – plus camping and tailgating.
That list, ultimately, is what brings Dakes to a yearly reunion of fans at Pocono Raceway. Along with an obvious commitment.
Dakes understands commitment. He has been volunteering for 18 years, a resume that has led to Dakes being named one of four finalists for The NASCAR Foundation’s Eighth Annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. He represents the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation, Inc., a Catonsville, Maryland, organization that provides exceptional hospital and respite housing services to critically ill children and their families. Believe in Tomorrow has served children from all 50 states; nearly 2,500 children directly benefit from the foundation’s efforts each year.
The award, named in honor of the foundation’s late founder and chairwoman, honors NASCAR fans who are also accomplished volunteers working for children’s causes in their communities throughout the United States.
The award winner will be determined via an online fan vote that is running until Nov. 19 at 5 p.m. (ET) at NASCARfoundation.org/Award. The winner will be announced Nov. 29 during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas. The NASCAR Foundation will donate $25,000 to the charities represented by the award finalists, with the winner’s charity receiving a $100,000 donation. Since the award’s inception, The NASCAR Foundation has impacted the lives of more than 260,000 children by providing more than $1.2 million in contributions to charities represented by finalists for the award.
Dakes, of Harwood, Maryland, personally has volunteered time and resources to paint the eight different Believe in Tomorrow facilities in the Mid-Atlantic region. He has received Believe in Tomorrow’s most prestigious award, the Unsung Hero Award.
"Carl is an inspiration to other volunteers," said Believe in Tomorrow President Brian Morrison.
Dakes is a commercial painting contractor and has approached the Believe in Tomorrow projects from a NASCAR state-of-mind, likening the different building jobs to paint schemes on race cars. It’s all about vibrant colors, dynamic design, individuality.
"I try to bring the two together, because of what I do for a living," Dakes said. "In NASCAR, each car has to be different. So, when we do the respite homes, each one has to have its own identity. You want to make a house special for the family that is going to be coming there. I always wonder when people first walk in the house, especially teenagers, what they’re going to think when they enter. I know many parents who have lost their children, yet, they will take away the week or two weeks they spend at these respite homes as really, really valuable. It’s about making memories.
"NASCAR is dominated by color and so is Believe in Tomorrow and with my passion for color, I find they blend really easy. You take one, mix in the other and you come out with happiness."
The happiness Dakes found being a devoted NASCAR fan initially surprised him somewhat. In the 1980s, a relative invited Dales and his wife to Pocono for a weekend of camping and racing. It was a transformative experience, the kind that turns casual fans into avid devotees.
"We just became hooked," Dakes said. "And once it starts, the more people you meet, the more friends you get and the more exciting it gets each week, with every race."