NASCAR Crews to Honor Service Branches at Coca-Cola 600

Drivers, Crews to Meet Service Members, Live a Day in Their Lives

By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

How cool would it be to meet a professional race car driver and his crew who’ll be representing you in a major race, then watch them try to do some of the training you’ve gone through?

NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, Army Lt. Col. Scott Pence, Command Sgt. Maj. Walter Kirk, Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Cobb and Spc. Josh Freier honor Spc. Michael Rodriguez, a fallen paratrooper, during an event at Fort Bragg, May. 17, 2017. Army photo by Spc. Zackary Nixon

That’s pretty much what’s happening starting this week for select units of each military branch ahead of NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 race, which is held every Memorial Day weekend.

It’s become a tradition for the Army to support the event, which gives a patriotic salute to the nation’s military heroes. But this year, all the services will be involved, and each branch will have a car racing in its honor.

Airmen from Luke Air Force Base salute at the Phoenix Raceway during the Can-Am 500 race Nov. 12, 2017. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexander Cook

Leading up to the event, selected NASCAR drivers and their crews will have a meet-and-greet with service members from specific units of each service for “orientation.”

Then the fun part begins. Each crew will immerse themselves into the life of a service member who serves in the branch they’re representing.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and crews joined soldiers and spectators to honor the fallen during the Memorial Day celebration at the Coca-Cola 600, May 24, 2015, at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Cooper T. Cash

For example, the Navy’s orientation day is at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, April 19. NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski and his pit crew will meet sailors aboard the USS Ford, many of whom were chosen to attend the Coca-Cola 600. After touring the Ford, the crew will visit a station helicopter squadron. They’ll go through a preflight safety briefing before taking off into the skies for another tour.

The Army’s orientation day is at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on April 26. Austin Dillon was chosen to represent the XVIII Airborne Corps. Dillon will unveil his race car for them, which will have the corps’ logo emblazoned on it. He and his crew will then get to try out rappelling and the jump tower on the post, as well as firing weapons and doing some of the other cool things for which soldiers train.

Service members hold the American flag during the Coca-Cola 600 pre-race ceremony at Charlotte Motor Speedway, May 25, 2014. The flag is the largest used by NASCAR and weighs roughly 1,600 pounds. Army photo by Sgt. William Gore

An Air Force orientation has been planned for May 9 at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, with NASCAR driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. representing one of the units there. A Coast Guard unit at Station Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, will meet with driver Alex Bowman and his crew on May 3.

Marine Corps orientation at Camp Lejeune is still in the works.

The Coca-Cola 600, the longest on NASCAR’s schedule at 600 miles, has been run since 1960. It was the first race to be held at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina.

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