Richard Petty Motorsports and the U.S. Air Force are once again partnering for NASCAR's 600 Miles of Remembrance program on Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 Air Force Ford, will race in memory of fallen U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley with his name featured on the windshield header.
Staff Sgt. Sibley entered active duty in November 2008 and upon completion of basic training, immediately entered the two-year combat controller training pipeline. As a Special Tactics combat controller, he solved ground problems with air power for special operations missions, including surveying and setting up airfields in hostile or remote areas, controlling air traffic from anywhere and directing precision air strikes.
Deploying once to Africa and three times to Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Sibley was a ground special operator qualified in military static line, free fall, combat scuba dive and joint terminal attack control. He was killed during a deployment to Afghanistan after two individuals wearing Afghan National Defense and Security Forces uniforms opened fire at a vehicle checkpoint near Camp Antonik, Afghanistan, on August 26, 2015. Staff Sgt. Sibley received a Bronze Star Medal with Valor and a Purple Heart for his service.
A long-time partner with the military branch, Richard Petty Motorsports will feature a U.S. Air Force primary paint scheme on the No. 43 Ford for the Coca-Cola 600. This will be the first of two race weekends of primary sponsorship for the U.S. Air Force in the 2016 season.
"It's incredibly important that we, as Americans, continue to honor the service and sacrifice of our fallen heroes," Col. Michael Flatten, 24th Special Operations Wing vice commander, said. "The Special Tactics Airmen we've lost were all exceptional warriors who not only volunteered to join our nation's Special Operations Forces, but earned their way to the tip of the spear in defense of our nation."
Almirola, born on Eglin Air Force Base, is deeply connected to the U.S. Air Force and understands the sacrifices made by military members and their families.
"It's truly an honor to be able to represent the U.S. Air Force and honor Staff Sgt. Sibley on Memorial Day weekend," said Almirola. "Our fallen men and women in the armed forces have paid the ultimate price so that we can race each weekend, and I'm glad that NASCAR has given us the opportunity to recognize their sacrifices. I'm excited to have Staff Sgt. Sibley's family join us for the race, and hopefully, at the end of the night, they will get to celebrate with our team and the U.S. Air Force in Victory Lane."
U.S Air Force Capt. Matthew D. Roland, a special tactics officer, was also killed in the same attack as Staff Sgt. Sibley. Seconds before the attack, he recognized the imminent threat and gave his convoy enough time to react to the insider attack with a radio call. Simultaneously, Roland knowingly put himself in the line of fire by moving the bus to protect the vehicle occupants, giving them precious time to react and neutralize both gunmen. Posthumously receiving a Silver Star for his heroic actions, Captain Roland will ride shotgun on NASCAR's pace car for the Coca-Cola 600.
Richard Petty Motorsports and U.S. Air Force Partner for NASCAR's 600 Miles of Remembrance
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