Editor's Note: I received this letter from a reader recently that shows the true spirit of a real racer. Even though Carlos Vieira (pictured fifth from left, below) has only been racing a short time, he has taken a selfless approach to the sport and we thought you'd like to hear about it.
I'm writing to you today to tell you about our race team. I'm the owner and driver of a team from Livingston, California. Carlos Vieira Racing Inc. is our business name, but we're known as Team 51 Fifty. We were founded in 2007 with a group of great friends with zero experience in racing.
I was 35 years old at that time and had no idea how to race or even where to go to get started. At that time, I had never even been to a race, but I knew that I wanted to race asphalt and race the type of car like the guys do in NASCAR. I found a local race shop called David's Racing Products, and walked in and spoke to the business owner, Mike David. I told him what I wanted to do and he steered me in the direction of buying a Western Late Model. After purchasing an old, used up Late Model, I showed up to the Madera Speedway in Madera, California, and started what is now a way of life for me and my team.
Another important side to our team is not only what we're doing on the track, but what we're doing off the track. In 2007, we were approached to raise money for the local Valley Children's Hospital in Fresno, California. With a little effort, we raised more than $3,000.
With this success and knowing that we could help people in our community who are less fortunate than we are, I decided to hold a fundraiser dinner in 2008. We raised more than $23,000 and donated it to a local organization to help families living with autism. We received so much positive feedback on our event and how the money helped that we decided to dedicate our entire 2009 season to help raise money for autism.
We started a campaign called Race for Autism and set our goal to raise $51,000. We held multiple fundraisers that year which included a dinner, a casino night, a takeout BBQ lunch, and an event called Race and Ride for Autism. We also donated all our race winnings to the campaign, which wasn't much, but it helped.
By the end of the season we were able to raise more than $53,000. This money was donated to three separate organizations in California to help kids living with autism. We even had a day at the shop where families could bring their autistic children and take pictures in the car. During this event the team served food and had games for the kids to play. It was a great day for families struggling with the same issues to get together and share their experiences.
In 2010, our campaign and efforts continued. We added a few more fundraisers and events, such as selling fireworks for the 4th of July, we joined Walk Now for Autism in the Central Valley, and we displayed our race cars at the local county fair for autism awareness. Our race cars are decked out with autism puzzles with our Race for Autism logo blasted on the hood.
Besides raising money for autism, we also held a clothing drive to help the homeless in our community. We filled one of our race trailers with clothes and other personal items and donated it to the Merced Rescue Mission. We also sent a local church group to Haiti to help with the aftermath of the earthquake.
This year, I decided that it was time to form a non-profit organization called the Carlos Vieira Foundation. The foundation still focuses on raising money for autism, but we have expanded our fundraising efforts to help with drug prevention. We believe that our children need to be educated on how bad drugs are, and during these tough economic times, our schools and law enforcement agencies need help. We'll be working closely with our local schools and providing them the funds needed to help deter our children from drugs.
Our race team has the passion to continue to help other families and at the same time we work hard to get our cars ready to go racing, and man do we go racing. This year, we race at least three weekends out of each month with the free weekend mostly being a fundraising event. The whole team works really hard and I'm very proud of what we've accomplished.
We currently race three divisions and have five cars. We continue to race Western Late Models but our focus this year is racing in the SRL South West Tour Series. We just purchased a couple of Grand National cars to race in the K&N West Series. Recently, we raced the one-mile track in Phoenix, Arizona, and have plans to get our feet wet in road-course racing in Sonoma, California, and in Utah. With all this going on we still have to move into our brand-new 10,000 square foot race shop.
We're still a fairly new team but we continue to move up with a lot of heart and enthusiasm. We pride ourselves on being a competitive and productive team on and off the track. We hope to encourage other teams to get involved in helping the less fortunate.
Even though racing is an expensive sport, with a little effort we have found a way to donate our time and resources to continue to help people in our community and around the world.
When I started all this five years ago, I knew nothing about racing or about fundraising. Now, it's all I want to do and I couldn't do it without the help of my team, Team 51 Fifty.
About the Author
Carlos Eduardo Vieira was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 23, 1972 and immigrated to the United States at a very young age with his family. His parents were born in Portugal and lived for a short time in Brazil when they were offered the opportunity to come work with family in the Central San Joaquin Valley of California.
Carlos, the youngest of three, was raised and attended school in Livingston, California, where he was deeply involved in sports, music, and many school activities. During the summer months he worked for the family's business, growing, packing, and selling sweet potatoes.
He went to college in Southern California then returned to work in the family business. He's now the Vice President of A.V. Thomas Produce, which has grown to be the largest grower and supplier of sweet potatoes in the U.S.
Carlos is married to Aysia Ferrier-Vieira and has two daughters. He was first introduced to the world of speed when he bought a Porsche at the age of 16. He then added to his craving for adrenaline and living life on the edge by riding motorcycles, on and off road.
He now races cars and is owner of Carlos Vieira Racing, Inc. He has also started the Carlos Vieira Foundation (CVF), a nonprofit charity organization, whose mission is to assist in strengthening local communities in Central California and communities around the globe by offering its services and raising money for multiple organizations that generously dedicate their time and assist people in need.