NASCAR Team "Races for Israel" at Daytona

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- It is known as the "Great American Race" and provides a huge platform to make a statement. The Daytona 500 is just around the corner.

This year, one racing team is taking the opportunity to show support for Israel.

When a country like Iran threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and the Jewish state faces enemies on every border, it's quite clear the small country needs allies.

Racing for Israel

The United States has been Israel's closest friend and that includes groups showing support in different ways.

One surprise has come from the world of auto racing -- NASCAR to be exact and the Charlotte, N.C.-based organization America Israel Racing.

AIR's car showcases a logo featuring the Star of David alongside the Stars and Stripes. A fierce-looking eagle bearing an olive branch in its beak accompanies the slogan, "United We Stand."

The car's emblem is a stand for Israel on a highly visible stage.

"There's always a lot more that we can do politically and socially to support Israel," Rich Shirey, AIR co-founder, said.

Two North Carolina-based entrepreneurs started AIR in response to recent political sentiment against the Jewish state. Their message to support Israel will definitely have an attentive audience considering the huge fan base of NASCAR.

"NASCAR is the biggest stage," AIR co-founder Mark MacCaull told CBN News. "It's what brought me into racing. I was always trying to get to that pinnacle. The Sprint Cup level is at the top of the racing pyramid."

"To show that the real America that I grew up in and I live in," Shirey emphasized about their goals.

"That the message is to the world and to Israel that we do support you 100 percent, and you have our backing, and we want that to be displayed," he said.

Israel Minister of Public Diplomacy Yuli Edelstein told CBN News the NASCAR nod is another example of the close bond between Americans and Israelis.

"I think that it's actually a very strong message saying that it's not about patronizing, and it's not about supporting a friend in need. It's just about friendship," Edelstein said.

"It's just about being allies. And I think this is sending a very good message to the American people," he said.

The AIR crew said they are excited to have J.J. Yeley behind the wheel, a no nonsense, intensely competitive driver who understands the importance of the mission.

"It's going to be a tremendous honor to have them on the car, especially going into the Daytona 500, which is America's race," Yeley said.

"It's the largest race that we have during the season, and it's the greatest way for anybody, especially the America Israel Racing team to get their point across," he said.

"I know that right now, the goal is to just let everyone know that we're thinking about the people of Israel," he added.

The Daytona 500, alone, is broadcast in more than 150 countries and in 20 different languages.

Standing with Israel

AIR has teamed with NASCAR veteran Robinson-Blakeney Racing to help them qualify for Daytona and eventually place a car in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Team owner Jay Robinson follows God's mandate in the Bible to stand with Israel.

"This sponsorship is probably one of the most important ones that I've ever been involved in," Robinson told CBN News.

"And just in attention to detail, we're making sure that we get everything right as we prepare to go to Daytona," he said. "Carrying the Star of David on the left side of this car is quite an honor."

"My faith is very strong, and I believe that all the way from Genesis on through, it discusses how Israel -- you need to stand with her. Don't turn your back on her, and that's very important," MacCaull said.

Car Power

In addition to standing with Israel, the AIR team believes they can win for Israel.

A powerful engine will help. AIR gave CBN News rare access to the shop where Charlie Siegars, a race car engine mechanic, works to put together a masterpiece.

"Everybody's been running upwards of 200 miles an hour down there so far, so we expect this one to be able to run right with them," Siegars explained.

Running with excellence in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series also requires funding.

AIR hopes fans, corporations, and even Israelis will donate to the cause to help spread the message of support for the nation that God calls the "apple of His eye."

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Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.