Race car honors fallen Yarnell firefighters

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- A young valley race car driver is getting the chance to help the families of the Yarnell Hill fallen firefighters.

Cassie Gannis is fast becoming a name in the world of racing. But it's how she is helping the families of those fallen heroes that has everyone talking.

Cassie has been racing for more than half of her life. "I've been racing since the age of 10 and now I'm 22," she says.

Now after more than 12 years behind the steering wheel and countless races, she is speeding across the coast as an up-and-coming professional racer.

For her next race, Cassie has a new sponsor. Jack Carter -- a retried firefighter from Illinois-- contacted her a month ago about partnering with her to promote the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

Carter says he chose Cassie above all other racers because of her character and her previous support of charities. Now her race car has a new decal honoring the firefighters. "We put it on the hood of my car for my upcoming race in Vegas," she says.

"I hope it reminds people of what happened," Cassie says. When Carter approached her about the idea of honoring the Yarnell 19 with a full hood memorial, Cassie jumped at the chance to give the foundation some national attention.

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation's main goal is to support the families of fallen firefighters, like the families of the hotshots.

Cassie says putting a decal on the hood of her car may not seem like much. But to her, it's something special. "It's definitely huge to me," she says. "People might think of it as little, but for me it's definitely very big."

Cassie says that it's a cause close to her heart. "To me it's really big thing because I know a lot of firefighters." 

You can see the Yarnell 19 memorial on Cassie's car on Saturday at the Bullring in Las Vegas for the Nascar All-American series. Cassie says she's about three steps away from racing in the Nascar National Series.