Story By; PETE STUART / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – For the third year in a row, NASCAR Xfinity Series™ drivers will bear the names of active military units and installations on their race car windshields during Friday’s Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), part of a continued effort to show appreciation for the United States Armed Forces through NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola.
Military units and installations like the USS Arizona Ship-14, 701st Military Police Battalion and Nellis Air Force Base are among the groups from all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces that will replace the Xfinity header on NASCAR Xfinity Series cars.
On Saturday, fans will once again join in a moment to “Rise to Honor” service members during the pace laps preceding the Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“The tradition of honoring the U.S. Armed Forces on Independence Day Weekend is something our fans have always taken pride in,” said Jill Gregory, NASCAR executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “All across the world, U.S. military units and bases are working around the clock to protect our country’s freedom and this is the NASCAR industry’s way of showing appreciation for that commitment and sacrifice.”
NASCAR Xfinity Series teams were again given the opportunity to identify a unit or installation to honor for the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250, while NASCAR worked with Comcast’s Military and Veteran Affairs team to match units with remaining teams for the tribute.
NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Brandon Jones will pilot the No. 19 Comcast NBCUniversal Salute to Service Toyota during the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 and honor the United States Air Force Thunderbirds based in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“It’s such a privilege to pay tribute to those who serve our country each year at Daytona, and we’re thankful Comcast feels the same, providing a prominent place to honor military units on our windshields,” said Jones. “We get to race because of sacrifices men and women made and continue to make to protect our country, and this is just one way we can thank them for their service.”
Members from the military bases and installations honored on the NASCAR Xfinity Series race cars will be hosted throughout the race weekend. NASCAR Troops to the Track presented by Coca-Cola will welcome service members from U.S. Coast Guard Station Port Canaveral based in Cape Canaveral, Florida; U.S. Coast Guard Station Mayport based in Atlantic Beach, Florida; USS Georgia (SSGN 729) homeported in Kings Bay, Georgia; and USS Maryland (SSBN 738), also homeported in Kings Bay.
Additionally, Comcast will host 25 service members and their families from Fort Stewart USO, Central Florida USO and Jacksonville USO; while Coca-Cola plans to host USO guests from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Tacoma, Washington and Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado as well.
Multiple drivers and team members have connections to the installations being honored on their cars, such as driver Kaz Grala’s PR rep Jessica Trippy, whose father, Retired Colonel Joe Trippy, served as a U.S. Air Force C-130 pilot and the Vice Wing Commander for the 920th Rescue Wing from 2003 to 2007.
Others include Ross Chastain, whose team is honoring the 701st Military Police Battalion in honor of Chastain’s friend, Sergeant Major Jason VanKleeck; and Elliott Sadler, whose rear mechanic Jeffrey Schmidt is the brother-in law of Chad Daugherty, who serves in the 1st Squadron, 180th Cavalry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
The weekend-long tribute at Daytona is the culmination of the seven-week NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola program (#NASCARSalutes) – the industry’s collective expression of gratitude for those who bravely served and continue to defend the United States today. Several other activities have taken place around the program in recent weeks, including a special activation between Coca-Cola and the USO.
To shine a spotlight on the military spouse community, the USO launched a six-month Salute to Military Spouses in May and proudly partnered with Coca-Cola to specifically honor the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouses of the Year at NASCAR races as part of NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola. In addition, NASCAR and Coca-Cola made donations in each spouse’s name to USO programming supporting military spouses and families.
Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers were paired up with a Military Spouse of the Year branch winner and interviewed them to learn about their stories and the USO programs important to them. Coca-Cola Racing Family driver Denny Hamlin interviewed Marine spouse Jolynn Lee, Austin Dillon interviewed National Guard spouse Sheila Brookins, Ryan Newman interviewed Coast Guard spouse Stacy Bilodeau, Kyle Larson interviewed Navy spouse Brian Alvarado, Bubba Wallace interviewed Air Force spouse Kristen Christy, and Joey Logano interviewed Army spouse Krista Anderson.
These spouses’ stories continue to be shared on NASCAR.com and social media channels as the campaign concludes this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
For the 10th consecutive year, Daytona International Speedway will honor three Medal of Honor recipients throughout the race weekend. Honorees include Sergeant First Class Gary Littrell of Henderson County, Kentucky; Master Sergeant Leroy Petry of Santa Fe, New Mexico and Staff Sergeant Don Jenkins of Quality, Kentucky.
In addition, all military members and their families will have access to a pair of Midway suites within the Daytona facility on Saturday where they can take a break from the busy day of activities to cool off and enjoy complimentary Coca-Cola products and snacks. The suites will be accessible from 3:30 p.m. through the end of Stage 1 of the Coke Zero Sugar 400. Throughout the day, various special guests will visit the suite and participate in Q&A sessions including Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver and 2008 DAYTONA 500 champion Ryan Newman at 4:40 p.m.