By Staff Sgt. Susan Wilt, 82nd Airborne Division Public AffairsMarch 15, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Every NASCAR fan loves to hear the words "Gentlemen start your engines," on race day because it's followed up by the loud roar of 42 stock car engines firing up and their favorite driver getting behind the wheel and stepping on the gas to try and win.
In the week following the race there's always a slew of radio shows and television shows that re-cap the race and start revving up for the next one. If someone is a NASCAR fan then being part of one of those shows is a big deal.
Monday, approximately 50 Service members and their family members came out to Sports USA on Fort Bragg to be part of "Fast Talk Radio" on the Performance Racing Network and visit with NASCAR drivers; Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 U.S. Army Chevrolet car in the Sprint Cup series, and Kyle Petty, retired NASCAR driver, son of racing legend Richard Petty, and co-host of the show.
"It means a lot to me to have them come out, it shows that they care and are willing to talk to us," said Greensboro, N.C, native, Sgt. Serge Ziegler, Company B, 188th Brigade Support Battalion, 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division.
The purpose of the show was to help kick-off Charlotte Motor Speedway's "Let the Troops Race" ticket program, a program that will send members of the Armed Forces to the Coca-Cola 600 at the speedway, May 29. Last year more than 3,000 service members attended the race and were part of the pre-race activities. The program works with the USO of N.C. to ensure that the tickets are distributed to the Service members.
"We believe this event to be the most patriotic in all of sports," said Scott Cooper, vice president of communications for Charlotte Motor Speedway. "It's a great way for us to pay tribute to all those Soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms, and also all those active duty service men and women that continue to serve today."
Sgt. James Agan, of Raeford, N.C., and member of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, took his NASCAR loving family to the Coca-Cola 600 last year, and they are looking forward to attending the race this year.
"We went to the race last year and loved it," said Agan, who was at the show because he and his family wanted to meet the different drivers.
"I've always enjoyed Ryan Newman ever since he started driving the Army car," said Agan, who's been on active duty for the past 15 years.
The race fans weren't the only ones excited for the meet and greet opportunity; the drivers themselves were just as excited to chat with the Service members about racing.
"This type of setting is great, the people who come to this are race fans, it's as simple as that," Petty said.
During the show, Col. Stephen J. Sicinski, the garrison commander of the base, talked about Fort Bragg's different units and capabilities. The USO of N.C. president, John Falkenbury, also spoke on the panel about working with Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600.
The audience members also got a chance to ask the drivers different questions on the air, which ranged from "how many speeding tickets have you had" to "what's your favorite race track." Anyone who had one of his/her questions asked won tickets to the Coca-Cola 600.
"Just giving them the opportunity to come out and enjoy what we do and our sport during the holiday weekend...is pretty special," Newman said talking about the race.