As part of a month-long prelude to the 63rd running of the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day Weekend, Charlotte Motor Speedway continued its Mission 600 campaign Thursday with a visit to the 82nd Airborne’s U.S. Army Advanced Airborne School at Fort Bragg, with Coca-Cola Racing Family driver Austin Dillon and his Richard Childress Racing teammate Tyler Reddick.
Mission 600 is a campaign that pairs 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.
“It’s so cool getting to dive into their world a little bit. These guys are true heroes,” said Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. “It’s nice being here and seeing all the men and women who keep this country what it is – the best country in the world. I love Memorial Day Weekend at the race track. I think some of these guys are going to get to come out and I’m glad they’ll get to see what we do too.”
Dillon and Reddick, alongside Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter, spent the day learning about the equipment and training that paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne receive. With coaching by the 1st Brigade Combat Team, the special guests strapped on parachutes and gear, then leaped from the installation’s 34-foot jump tower. The group also took part in high-stress, live-fire rifle training that mixes exercise and marksmanship.
“We were able to get just a small glimpse of what the everyday training is like and what they are putting themselves through when they are dropped into those combat zones to be prepared physically and mentally,” Reddick said. “The intensity of what they face out here and the intensity in a race car is not really comparable, but for some of the things they’re putting themselves through to train and be ready, you see some of the comparisons to what we do to get ready in the race car.”
Fort Bragg is the largest military installation by population in the U.S., providing the infrastructure and training that enables a ready, capable force to fight and win the nation’s wars. The 82nd Airborne Division is America's immediate response force - ready to deploy and answer the nation's call in 18 hours.
“This is another stop on Mission 600 this year, where we take drivers from NASCAR and let them experience what the military does each and every day,” said Greg Walter, executive vice president and general manager at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “We got a little taste of what it takes to get ready to deploy. These paratroopers have to be ready to deploy anywhere in the world on very short notice.
“To see this training on base – and to see Austin and Tyler really get into it and whole-heartedly want to jump out of the airplane – it is a nice reminder of how our sport treats our military. The fact that the Coca-Cola 600 is on the eve of Memorial Day, and how significant that holiday is for our country, we want to be sure we treat it the right way and have great racing.”
At Charlotte Motor Speedway, Memorial Day Weekend provides the opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, particularly those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. The patriotic Coca-Cola 600 pre-race show includes representation from all five major branches of the military.
To date in 2022 on Mission 600, Denny Hamlin virtually met members of U.S. Army Central, Kuwait and Daniel Suarez visited Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach as representatives of the Coca-Cola Racing Family of drivers. Defending Coca-Cola 600 winner Kyle Larson and Jeff Gordon laid a wreath at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Additional Mission 600 visits in the coming weeks leading up to the May 29 Coca-Cola 600 are scheduled to include NASCAR drivers visiting units from the U.S. Marine Corps (at Camp Lejeune) and the U.S. Air Force (virtually with a unit at Camp Ali Al Salem, Kuwait).
Tickets are still available for the May 27-29 Coca-Cola 600 Weekend, with three-day packages starting at $99. Weekend tickets for children ages 12 and under are just $10. Fans can purchase tickets online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or by calling the ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267). Admission to Circle K Speed Street concerts by Flo-Rida (Friday) and The Steve Miller Band (Saturday) is free with any race ticket. Sunday’s Lynyrd Skynyrd pre-race concert is free with purchase of a Coca-Cola 600 race ticket.