NEW YORK -- Americans have remembered Sept. 11 in years past by planting trees, raising flags and saying prayers at makeshift memorials.
This year, NASCAR driver Benny Gordon is going to the racetrack -- in a custom-designed, Sept. 11 memorial car inscribed with the message, "Always Remember."
Gordon, co-owner of the North South Motorsports team, is racing a blue, black and white 2009 Ford fusion in a 43-car field at a NASCAR Nationwide Series race this Sept. 11 in Virginia at Richmond International Speedway.
His Dubois, Pa., team -- not far from the site of the memorial for United 93, one of four hijacked jetliners that crashed -- wanted to raise awareness for the 9/11 memorial under construction at the World Trade Center site, which Gordon visited earlier this year.
"I was deeply impacted by the events of Sept. 11 and my heart went out to the families of those who lost their lives," Gordon said. "I hope that racing this car will not just be a way to mark the anniversary, but will help remind others that we have an obligation to remember."
The cost of redesigning the car -- normally reserved for main sponsors Samuel & Sons Metal Co. and Varischetti & Sons -- is about $100,000, a team spokesman said. The design, which is still being developed, will sport a new logo for the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum, the foundation building the memorial, the words "9/11 Memorial" and "Always Remember."
The foundation is also bringing an American flag that flew over ground zero to fly at the racetrack.
Foundation president Joe Daniels said the car will hopefully reach one of the largest fan communities in American sports, raising awareness of the memorial and perhaps smaller donations.
"It was this driver who wanted to give back, in his way as a professional NASCAR racer. He picked a way that he thought he could help," Daniels said. "We're so lucky that NASCAR has such an incredibly huge fan base. This is going to be our introduction to this world."
"Reflecting Absence," the Sept. 11 memorial design under construction since 2006, sets two reflecting pools above the destroyed twin towers' footprints in the middle of a tree-filled, cobblestone plaza. A museum is planned for below ground.
The memorial plaza is expected to open by Sept. 11, 2011.