KANSAS CITY, Kansas – As flags waved across the speedway, the smell of the burnt rubber fueled the airways, and service members, veterans along with their families came to take in the experience of what NASCAR brings, the 1st Infantry Division and Kansas Recruiting Battalion partnered with NASCAR to show the public why they serve.
Static displays of military equipment such as helicopters, military vehicles, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), and military police were there for all to see. During the singing of the National Anthem the Air Force supported a flyover with a B-52 Bomber. On pit lane, following the National Anthem, the crowd cheered loudly as service members walked up in front of the stage for a mass re-enlistment. Once the pre-race festivities were done the green flag dropped and the Hollywood Casino 400 was under way with 36 drivers putting the pedal to the metal to compete for the win.
“It was just a day that will be burned into our souls, Denny Hamlin, driver of the 11 car and co-owner of 23XI race team said.” “You can’t forget. It’s really an honor for us to be out there and represent the military and the first responders that came running into the burning building. That’s why you see what NASCAR does every single week. The American flag is on every hauler, on every uniform because it’s a really big deal. For our sport to honor people.”
The president of the Kansas Speedway, Pat Warren who is a 1st Infantry Division Distinguished Trooper, said he couldn’t have been more proud of how the day went overall. Warren was presented a red jacket for being recognized as an outstanding contributor to the military community and the 1st Infantry Division.
“When military members who were honored here today and hearing them say that they had a fantastic day and it was one of the best experiences in their life. That is what I like to hear. That is why we do this. To hear those kind of reactions.”
Every service member was a winner with the experience that they received from NASCAR; however, the winning moment of that day was when Bubba Wallace hugged an emotional Soldier who asked him the importance of 9/11 during the post-race press conference. This moment which almost put the entire room in tears, ended with the Soldier giving his 1ID patch to Bubba Wallace, who went back to his seat emotional and appreciative of the sacrifices of our service members.
“We lost so many good people on that day,” said Joey Logano, the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series Champion. “It was one of the saddest days in U.S. history. It was a great honor having the military here today to not only honor them, but to thank them for what they do.”