America Supports You: NASCAR Dedicates Coca-Cola 600 to Troops
By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 28, 2007 NASCAR fans, drivers and race teams had the opportunity to show their appreciation to the U.S. military yesterday by dedicating the Coca-Cola 600 here to the men and women of the armed forces.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, right, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanks the NASCAR pit-crew of Jeff Gordon, which is representing the America Supports You program at the Coca Cola 600 race in Charlotte, N.C., May 27, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
More than 180,000 fans gathered at Lowe’s Motor Speedway to see one of the race season’s biggest races and to pay tribute to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country and those who are currently serving in the military.
“It’s important to show the troops that we support them,” said H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, Lowe’s Motor Speedway president. “Race fans are very patriotic. We know that they love this and have come to expect it on Memorial Day weekend.”
NASCAR officials dedicated portions of prime advertising space on eight Nextel Cup cars and two Busch series cars to emblazon military logos and other messages of support to troops during the weekend’s races.
Local driver and crowd favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. had his car covered with a desert camouflage pattern; Mark Martin drove a yellow and black Army car; Denny Hamlin represented the Marines; Bill Elliott paid tribute to the Air Force; Jimmie Johnson drove the “Power of Pride” Chevrolet; and race winner Casey Mears drove the National Guard/American Heroes car.
DuPont driver Jeff Gordon’s car had the Defense Department seal on the hood, along with the America Supports You logo. DuPont is a member of America Supports You, the Defense Dept. program designed to connect the American public with servicemembers and their families at home and abroad.
“It’s a great honor to be driving the Defense Department car, and it’s important to support our troops,” said Gordon. “I’m proud to be part of this today.”
DuPont was the first one to sign on to be part of the event’s special paint scheme supporting the troops, said Larry Deas, DuPont racing team manager.
“I knew we could get support from DuPont to participate because we’re conscientious about our duties as a company and about supporting our men and women in uniform,” Deas said.
NASCAR is a vibrant sport and, after football, is the second largest-viewed sport, said DuPont Vice President Mike Crickenberger.
“We reach a very large audience and a cross section of America. This was a wonderful idea by NASCAR to support the troops today, on this Memorial Day weekend,” Crickenberger said.
DuPont has been supplying the armed forces with products for more than 200 years. The most well known products the company currently manufactures for troops are those made with Kevlar and Nomex materials.
“We appreciate what our troops overseas are doing,” Crickenberger said. “DuPont is proud to be supporting them. We want them home safely; that’s why we do what we do.”
In addition to the unique paint scheme, speedway officials invited more than 6,000 troops and their families from Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Campbell, Ky., to be event guests and participate in race day activities.
“It’s unfortunate that people like you are asking me for my autograph,” said Chevrolet driver Jeff Burton as he addressed the troops before the race. “I’m the one who should be getting yours.”
“You deserve this day and everything else we can do for you,” Burton said. “Thank you so much for what you do.”
Pre-race festivities included flyovers of Apache, Blackhawk and Kiowa Warrior helicopters in addition to firepower demonstrations by squads of infantry soldiers as they used machine guns and howitzers to simulate attacking and blowing up obstacles.
The U.S. Army Golden Knights also performed a parachuting demonstration, landing on the speedway’s infield while the 82nd Airborne Division Chorus and the U.S. Army Drill Team performed elsewhere in the complex.
The crowd inside came to its feet with wild cheers and applause as more than 1,500 troops marched onto the track for the introduction of the race’s drivers and grand marshal Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Today is a day to take a moment to pause and think about the men and women who serve our country,” Pace told those in the speedway. “Those of us who have the privilege of wearing the uniform also take this time to rededicate ourselves to upholding the legacy we inherited.”
“And as long as we have the strength we will ensure that our children and grandchildren live in a free America,” Pace said, bringing the crowd back to its feet.