America Supports You: NASCAR Family Offers Troops Support
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 2, 2007 From its drivers to its millions of fans, NASCAR has long been associated with patriotism, and the tradition has continued as troops serve in the global war on terrorism.
NASCAR has been a corporate supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program that connects citizens and corporations with members of the military and their families at home and abroad, since 2005.
“We, like all of our country, certainly enjoy the benefits of the history of America’s military,” Mike Helton, the president of NASCAR, said. “NASCAR’s role is personal to all of us. It’s not just about what we can do; it’s what we should do.”
Before the start of the Aaron’s 499 at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama on April 29, Helton acknowledged the sacrifice of servicemembers who protect the freedoms that allow his league to entertain fans.
“The fact of the matter is … there are fellow Americans who are putting themselves in the middle of harm’s way in order for us to have the liberties that we’ve got,” he said.
For those who put their lives on the line, he had a simple message.
“On behalf of NASCAR, but (me) personally, I would simply just want to say, ‘Thank You,’” and that doesn’t seem like enough to be able to do,” Helton said. “We’re honored to have you be fans of NASCAR, but I must tell you that we’re very proud of you as the soldiers and the men and women who wear the uniform and the colors of the military of the United States of America.”
Grant Lynch, president of the Talladega Superspeedway and the vice president of the International Speedway Corporation, also zeroed in on the close ties between NASCAR and the military. He pointed out the numerous American flags that fans camping on the Superspeedway property fly and the fact that the military sponsors cars that fans can cheer each time they race.
“The armed forces have chosen to use our sport to help with recruiting efforts, and the big displays that you see (outside the track are) for the fans to go through and see what the military means,” Lynch said. “(The military uses) it as a way to build a base going forward for the country.”
The drivers are no less enamored by the military than the military is with them, either. Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet and winner of this year’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega, said it’s a privilege to do what he does and that he realizes he might not have that option if it weren’t for the military.
“This is entertainment. This is not saving lives and saving the world,” he said. “I know if it weren’t for the armed forces and all the men and women that serve in it, that we wouldn’t be able to have this luxury … to be able to come out here and entertain all these fans.”
Gordon also said he’s looking forward to Memorial Day weekend, when he will show his support for the troops in a very special way during the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, N.C.
“I’m going to be carrying the Department of Defense logo on our DuPont Chevrolet, and that’s a real privilege and honor for me to represent all the men and women out there in the Department of Defense,” he said. “Hopefully I’m going to make them proud and get that No. 24 Department of Defense car to Victory Lane.”
The car, with its America Supports You logo, will be unveiled at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, on May 8.