Continuing an annual tradition for the defending Coca-Cola 600 race winner to kick off Military Appreciation Month, Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted 2023 NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney for an impactful visit to Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 servicemen and women and their families from every major United States conflict since the Revolutionary War.

As a prelude to the 65th running of the May 26 Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend, the driver of the Team Penske No. 12 Ford joined Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith, Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter and North Carolina Rep. Richard Hudson in laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Arlington, Va.

“It was an honor to be here, very humbling,” 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.”

In addition to the wreath-laying, the group took part in a private viewing of artifacts that bring to life the rich history of Arlington National Cemetery in the Memorial Amphitheater Display Room, visited with Arlington National Cemetery staff and witnessed a changing-of-the-guard ceremony. At the iconic tomb, which marked its centennial anniversary in 2021, members of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as The Old Guard, stand watch 24 hours a day, a tradition that began in 1948. Following the visit to Arlington National Cemetery, the dignitaries visited the United States Capitol, where they met with U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis and Ted Budd.

“To be here with Ryan Blaney, NASCAR champion and Coca-Cola 600 champion, it makes us remember how special it is being able to race the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend,” Smith said. “We all have a lot of things going on and we all are busy, but this is definitely a time that we can set aside and make it a special time of remembrance. Everybody should come to Arlington and appreciate this and feel the sacrifice of our Armed Forces.”

Each Memorial Day weekend, Charlotte Motor Speedway pays tribute to those men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice during a moving Coca-Cola 600 pre-race show that includes representation from all six branches of the military. In addition to aerial and ground demonstrations, the pre-race salute features hundreds of members of the U.S. Armed Forces and Gold Star Families.

“I grew up going to the 600 watching dad race on Memorial Day and always knew what it was as a kid,” Blaney said. “I saw the job that NASCAR did in honoring the soldiers that have fallen. Now as an adult, getting to be a part of it — meeting family members of fallen soldiers, active service members, and now coming here — I think it just makes it even more special that we get to run on Memorial Day… It makes you feel how small you actually are in the broader picture of things. We get to do a neat sport, but at the end of the day, this is what real heroes are. It‘s going to be even more special getting to race the 600 after visiting this place.”

In recent years, the speedway‘s salute has expanded to include Mission 600, a campaign pairing NASCAR drivers with military bases designed to educate the NASCAR community about the day-to-day lives of the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. To date in 2024, on behalf of the Coca-Cola Racing Family of drivers, Daniel Suárez visited Fort Liberty to train alongside members from the 82nd Airborne Division and Denny Hamlin virtually met members of the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, Korea. Additional Mission 600 visits in the coming weeks leading up to the May 26 Coca-Cola 600 are scheduled to include Coca-Cola Racing Family driver Joey Logano traveling to Shaw Air Force Base and Chris Buescher visiting Marines at Parris Island Marine Recruit Depot.

— Charlotte Motor Speedway —

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *