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DOD and NASCAR Honor Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day Weekend

The Defense Department and NASCAR will commemorate Memorial Day during the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina with a tribute to fallen service members. This event caps off a monthlong campaign highlighting NASCAR's military partnership through service member engagements, moments of remembrance and patriotic performances. 

A military color guard stands on a track facing a massive set of stands filled with people.
Honoring Troops
Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division and other service members from different units and branches were recognized during the Coca Cola 600 NASCAR race, May 29, 2022, at Charlotte Motor Speedway, N.C. The race took place on Memorial Day in honor of those who have defended the nation's freedoms by paying the ultimate sacrifice.
Photo By: Army Spc. Rognie Ortiz Vega
VIRIN: 220529-A-OQ670-566C

The three-day event, starting May 24, will feature interactive displays from multiple military services in the Speed Street Fan Zone at Charlotte Motor Speedway. On Friday, local students can attend the STEAM Expo, which will feature racing-themed activities and hands-on displays from the services, showcasing technologies including robotics, engineering, aerodynamics and more.  

Sunday's pre-race ceremonies will include active-duty service members from all the military services. Performances by the Army's All-American Chorus from Fort Liberty, North Carolina; a joint services color guard; and a joint enlistment ceremony will kick off the special ceremonies. Fans will also be treated to a thunderous howitzer demonstration, a helicopter demonstration by the Army's 101st Airborne Division and a performance by the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon. 


After a driver introduction ceremony that will pair service members with NASCAR drivers, there will be a special performance of the national anthem by Army Field Band vocalist Staff Sgt. Aaron McAleavey. The pre-race festivities will conclude with a flyover by a C-17 Globemaster III from the North Carolina Air National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing.  

Unique to the Coca-Cola 600, is a mid-race break and special moment of remembrance. At this time, the competitors will bring their cars off the track and turn off their engines. The drivers, teams and fans will hold a moment of silence, honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service of the nation.  

Greg Walter, executive vice president of Charlotte Motor Speedway, highlighted the emotional impact of the event, noting, "Being the eve of Memorial Day, we want to be sure the messaging and the experience is right. The freedom is not free. And so everything we do towards the race, even during the race, reflect that experience." 


This special weekend is the culmination of a monthlong collaboration, which included driver visits to military bases, virtual interactions with deployed units and a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery by NASCAR representatives.  

The program, called "Mission 600," promotes a partnership between the racing community and the armed forces. NASCAR driver Daniel Suarez and his Trackhouse Racing crew chief Matt Swiderski kicked off the visits by training with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Liberty.  

Reaching out to forces serving overseas, Denny Hamlin met virtually with the Army's 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command in Korea. Joey Logano took to the skies during a visit with the 77th Fighter Squadron "Gamblers" at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. Finally, driver Chris Buescher spent time with the Marines at Parris Island, South Carolina.  

In one of the most poignant moments in the program, reigning NASCAR champion Ryan Blaney joined Walter, Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith and North Carolina Representative Richard Hudson in laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Of the visit, Blaney said, "Seeing the changing of the guard, being part of the wreath ceremony, that was just unbelievable, over the top — puts it all into perspective. We get to do what we do because of what's here, because of the men and women who were laid to rest here.” 

The longest race on NASCAR's schedule at 600 miles, the Coca-Cola 600 is a test of skill, determination, and teamwork. This year's race will be held before a sold-out crowd, which will include active-duty service members, veterans and military families. 

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