CONCORD, N.C. — It’s Memorial Day weekend. A time in the United States where the public remembers those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect the country.
So it’s the perfect time for NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway to celebrate those who serve and remember those lost.
Before and during the Coca-Cola 600, the memories of fallen soldiers will be on the minds of many. The prerace show will feature UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and 12 soldiers fast-roping to the ground. Soldiers from Fort Bragg and other bases will participate, including members of the North Carolina National Guard, airman from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina and marines.
“The troops really appreciate being recognized. … America owes them a debt of gratitude,” said USO of North Carolina President John Falkenberry. “Their spirits are lifted but it’s more importantly that it’s demonstrating to America the resolve these men and women have and [the need] to take care of them.”
There will be thousands of soldiers who participate and through the USO, the speedway will distribute tickets that can be used for their families so they can be together Sunday.
“We run around all the time and all these things stressing us out [and] people have been fighting and dying to defend those principles [we hold dear],” said NASCAR driver Carl Edwards. “To take a moment at an event like this and to recognize those people and thank them is really special.”
Every driver in the race Sunday will have the name of a fallen soldier across their windshield in the place where the driver’s name would be. Many of the names have a tie to the driver or someone on the team.
“There’s no telling what that family [of the soldier] is going through … and I think this is a great way to honor our soldiers that are out there fighting for our freedom,” said Team Penske driver Joey Logano. “His weekend is one of the most important weekends for that.”
In partnership with Operation Gratitude, Mars will encourage fans to help assemble care packages for the troops in the midway at the track.
Goodyear also has taken its “Eagle” name off the tire for “Support Our Troops” as part of its programs and auctions to help military-oriented charities.
NASCAR typically honors military guests at all of its prerace drivers meetings and often has families of those who have died while serving the country.
“NASCAR has always had a close relationship with the military of our country, and honors a family weekly who has lost someone,” said NASCAR most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. “We always have service men and women out to the track as guests.
“That’s always been an important addition to the weekend. I like that we ramp it up for this particular weekend.”