As Americans remember and mourn our fallen heroes this Memorial Day weekend, the NASCAR nation will honor and recognize them alongside hundreds of current service members in one of the biggest races of the year. sport. The “600 Miles of Remembrance” is more than just a race.
Since 2018, all Department of Defense service branches have partnered with NASCAR to honor the U.S. military at the Coca-Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. Before the race, several drivers also spend time at military bases to experience what the service is really like through the speedway’s Mission 600 campaign.
These partnerships connect Americans to the dedicated men and women who serve in the U.S. military and strengthen DOD relationships with local communities.
This year will be no different, with many military-related activities taking place on the circuit before the race. Attendees can visit the Fan Zone outside the track and on the inside ball field – the track’s grassy infield – to participate in meet and greets with service members, see our talented military musicians perform and watch various drill team demonstrations.
A Who’s Who of military talent
On Friday, the U.S. Army Drill Team and the Air Force Heritage of America band will perform for fans. Students from local schools and Department of Defense Educational Activity Schools will also have the chance to experience more than 40 interactive exhibits at the STEAM Expo, which highlights careers in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. On Saturday, the folkloric Six String Soldiers, part of the US Army Field Band, will perform in the Fan Zone. The Marine Silent Drill Platoon will also perform on Saturday.
Sunday, race day, will be filled with military moments. At the ballpark, several military vehicles will be on display, and service members will line up at the logos painted on the pitch – including one for the #WhyWeServe campaign – to chat with fans who want to see the gear up close. The Air Force Heritage of America Band and the US Navy Silent Drill Team will also perform.
About an hour before the start of the race, more than 50 new recruits from all military services will participate in a joint oath-of-enlistment ceremony.
Soldiers from Fort Bragg’s 2-319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment fire an M119A3 105mm howitzer just before the All-American Chorus of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division performs God Bless America, America the Beautiful and Carolina on my Mind. Afterwards, several service members will introduce and escort the 36 drivers to their cars, all of whom will honor fallen service members by displaying the names of the deceased prominently on their windshields. The pilots will also pay tribute to the Gold Star Families, who will be present.
An Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter will drop several soldiers onto the ball field before the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard takes to the field. An Army Chaplain will perform the summons, then the Navy Ceremonial Guard Rifle Team will perform a small arms volley before the US Coast Guard Band performs taps. Next, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Elizabeth Marino will sing the national anthem with support from the 2nd Aircraft Marine Corps Band.
Just before the race kicks off, T-38 Talons from the Air Force 1st Fighter Wing will perform a flyover to excite fans.
Halfway through the race, all drivers will take a caution break, where their cars will return to Pit Road. In a moment unlike any seen elsewhere in American sports, drivers will turn off their engines and observe a moment of silence for our country’s fallen heroes.
a day in the life
Ahead of this weekend’s race, a few NASCAR drivers experienced military life as part of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s military appreciation program, Mission 600. Driver Joey Logano toured the USS Nitze at Naval Norfolk station in early May. He worked on real-life situations sailors face in the ship’s simulation room, and he even served food to his sailors.
In April, Austin Dillon and members of his crew visited soldiers at Fort Bragg, which will be renamed Fort Liberty on June 2.
Driver Daniel Suarez virtually visited with members of Area Support Group Jordan, an active organization working to increase operability with Jordanian troops. And Aric Almirola spent some time at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, learning more about the Marines of the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
Earlier this month, famed driver Denny Hamlin and other industry players visited the Pentagon, spoke with military personnel and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
Under Secretary of Defense Kathleen H. Hicks spoke with Pentagon visitors about the importance of the NASCAR/DOD partnership. As this year marks the 50th anniversary of the all-volunteer force, she noted that the NASCAR racing community is important in keeping the Army’s legacy and future alive.
“You help bring the stories of service members and their families and our mission to millions of people. It’s important to better understand what we do and the sacrifices service members and military families make to ensure the security of our nation,” Hicks told visitors. “Your amplification also reaches a huge potential pool of talent who could go on to serve their country and defend the nation.”
The Coca-Cola 600, the longest on the NASCAR calendar at 600 miles, has been raced since 1960. It was the first race to be held at Charlotte Motor Speedway.