Before NASCAR’s finest took to the track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week, they all had one person on their mind: Caleb Hammond. Following a two-year battle with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the 11-year-old Iowa boy tragically passed away Monday morning.
Caleb’s story was followed closely by members of the racing community, as the avid racing fan’s simple request back in August to have racing stickers for his casket was met with a massive outpouring by drivers and fans alike. According to ESPN, at least 12 Cup Series and Xfinity Series drivers sported stickers on their stock cars at IMS in honor of Caleb, whose family elected to end his extensive treatment after his cancer aggressively resurfaced following a bone marrow transplant in January. He ended up returning to his hometown of Oskaloosa, Iowa and spent his final days surrounded by friends and family.
“Our little Mr went peacefully in his sleep at 2:00 a.m. today surrounded by our families,” Caleb’s mother, Holly Kempf, wrote on Facebook Monday. “Before I was woken up being told he was getting ready to pass, he was smiling at me while I was dreaming. With my hand on his chest, I felt his last breath and a few last heart beats.”
Following the heartbreaking announcement, current and former NASCAR drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, and Kasey Kahne, took to Twitter to mourn Caleb’s death.
It wasn’t just NASCAR drivers who mourned Caleb’s passing. Laura Mulder met Caleb at an Oskaloosa racing event back in August and, ever since then, had followed his story.
“He will be in my heart forever,” Mulder told USA Today.
“That smile and those eyes forever. They will be with me forever.”