As Americans remember and mourn their fallen heroes this Memorial Day weekend, NASCAR Nation will honor and recognize them alongside hundreds of current military members during one of the biggest races of the year in this sport. The 600 Miles of Remembrance is much more than just a race.
Since 2018, all service branches of the Department of Defense have partnered with NASCAR to honor the United States Military during 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 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’s relationships with local communities.
This year will be no different, with numerous military-related activities taking place on the racetrack in the lead-up to the race. Participants can visit the Fan Zone outside the track and on the indoor ball field – the track’s grass field – to take part in military meet-and-greets, see our talented military musicians perform and attend various drill team demonstrations.
The 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 schools will also have the chance to experience more than 40 interactive exhibits during the STEAM Expo, which highlights careers in science, technology, engineering , art and mathematics. On Saturday, folk group Six String Soldiers, a member of the US Army Field Band, will perform in the Fan Zone. The Marine Silent Drill Platoon will also perform Saturday.
Sunday – race day – will be filled with military moments. On the ballfield, several military vehicles will be on display and service members will line up at painted logos on the field – including one for the #WhyWeServe campaign – to chat with fans who want to see the equipment up close. The Air Force Heritage of America Band and the US Navy Silent Drill Team will also perform.
Approximately one 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 will fire an M119A3 105mm howitzer just before the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division All-American Choir performs God Bless America, America the Beautiful and Carolina on my Mind. Then, several military personnel will introduce and escort the 36 drivers to their cars, all of whom will pay tribute to the fallen service members by displaying the names of the fallen service members prominently on their windshields. The drivers will also pay tribute to the Gold Star families, who will be in attendance.
An Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter will drop several Soldiers onto the ballfield before the Joint Forces Color Guard enters the field. An Army chaplain will perform the invocation, then the Navy Ceremonial Guard rifle team will perform a small arms volley before the U.S. Coast Guard Marching 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’s 1st Fighter Wing will perform a flyover to energize fans.
Midway through the race, all drivers will take a caution break, where their cars will return to Pit Road. In an unprecedented moment in American sports, drivers will shut down their engines and observe a moment of silence for our country’s fallen heroes.
A day in the life
Before this weekend’s race, a few NASCAR drivers experienced military life firsthand as part of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s military appreciation program, Mission 600. Driver Joey Logano visited the USS Nitze at the Norfolk Naval Base in early May. He worked on real-life situations that sailors face in the ship’s simulation room, and he even served food to the sailors.
In April, Austin Dillon and members of his team visited soldiers at Fort Bragg, which became Fort Liberty on June 2.
Driver Daniel Suarez visited virtually with members of the Area Support Group Jordan, an active organization working to increase the operability of Jordanian troops. And Aric Almirola spent time at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to learn more about the Marines of the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
Earlier this month, celebrity driver Denny Hamlin and others from the industry toured the Pentagon, spoke with service members and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen H. Hicks spoke to Pentagon visitors about the importance of the NASCAR/DOD partnership. As this year marks the 50th anniversary of the all-volunteer force, she emphasized that the NASCAR racing community is important to keeping the military’s legacy and future alive.
“You play an instrumental role in bringing the stories of service members and their families to the forefront and bringing our mission front and center to millions of people. This is important to better understand what we do and the sacrifices our military and military families make to keep our nation safe. Hicks told the visitors. “Your amplification also reaches a huge potential pool of talent who could serve their country and defend the nation.”
The Coca-Cola 600, the longest on the NASCAR schedule at 600 miles, has been run since 1960. It was the first race to be held at Charlotte Motor Speedway.