CONCORD — Mission accomplished. For the sixth consecutive year, ahead of the Coca-Cola 600 each Memorial Day Weekend, Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Mission 600 set out to honor the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces by pairing Coca-Cola Racing Family and other drivers alongside units from different branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
This year defending Coca-Cola 600 winner Denny Hamlin and fellow Coca-Cola Family Racing drivers Daniel Suarez, Austin Dillon and Joey Logano, along with Aric Almirola, visited military to educate the NASCAR community about the day-to-day lives of the men and women who serve. This year’s campaign included a mix of in-person and virtual visits spanning from the Middle East and Arlington National Cemetery to bases in North Carolina and Virginia.
“The Coca-Cola 600, being on the eve of Memorial Day, it’s a nice reminder to be able to bring the stars of our sport out so they can actually see what the military does each and every day — that sense of team, that sense of service, that sense of duty — the same characteristics that make for a successful race team,” said Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter. “When we bring these drivers out for Mission 600, it’s really cool to see them kind of rethink things. They see the military there during pre-race, but to be able to interact with them outside of the race weekend and see how they work to protect our freedoms, it’s a unique connection point for our sport to the military.”
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Austin Dillon, Paul Swan visited Fort Bragg (April 19)
Dillon and Swan, alongside Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter, spent the day learning about the equipment and training that members of the 82nd Airborne receive. The trio toured Fort Bragg in a UH-60 Black Hawk and fired an M119A2 Howitzer, rode in Infantry Squad Vehicles, dined with service members in the Warrior Restaurant, took part in an Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) and participated in live-fire exercises.
Daniel Suarez visited virtually Area Support Group – Jordan (April 27) During the hour-long virtual visit, members of ASG-J shared with Suárez, Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter and Performance Racing Network President Doug Rice insights into their mission to provide logistics, communications needs, force protection and host nation coordination throughout the region. Over the course of the conversation, Suárez and the unit found common ground on topics ranging from the importance of teamwork to persevering through adversity.
Denny Hamlin visit Arlington National Cemetery (May 3)
Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing President Dave Alpern joined Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith, executives from Coca-Cola Bottling Co. and Coca-Cola Consolidated, as well as Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, continuing an annual tradition for the defending Coca-Cola 600 race winner to kick off Military Appreciation Month each May in Arlington, Va. The group also toured the cemetery’s artifacts room, visited with members of the Old Guard and toured the Pentagon.
Joey Logano visits Naval Station Norfolk (May 10)
Logano, alongside Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter and NASCAR Salutes ambassador Jesse Iwuji, toured the expansive USS Nitze destroyer, met with commanding officers and the crew, toured the ship’s bridge and aft missle deck, and served chow to sailors. Following the tour, Logano participated in a ship handling trainer simulation, which gave the veteran driver an in-depth education in maneuvering a warship at sea.
Aric Almirola visited Camp Lejeune (May 16)
Almirola, along with Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter, met with Marines from the 2D LAR (Light Armor Reconnaissance) Battalion, flew in an MV-22 Osprey, participated in a tire-changing demonstration, learned about a variety of weapons systems, and fired an M242 Bushmaster from an LAV (Light Armored Vehicle). Almirola also served lunch to dozens of Marines, courtesy of Smithfield.