In honor of Memorial Day, NASCAR Cup Series drivers and accompanying on-track vehicles in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM) will carry the name of a fallen military member on their cars.
For some drivers and teams, it’s an extra personal connection. Read on to see some of the stories.
Chip Ganassi Racing
Kurt Busch and the No. 1 Chevrolet will honor Construction Electrician Petty Officer Second Class (US Navy) Phil Grieser on the No. 1 GEARWRENCH Chevrolet. Grieser served with the father of Doug Newell; Doug is an electrician tech at Ganassi. Grieser was killed from injuries suffered by a rocket attack near the camp of Seabee team 1013 on May 18, 1969, in Vietnam
Doug, through his father, had been in contact with the brother of Phil Grieser, Mark Grieser, who lives in Ohio. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NASCAR races currently are running without fans. Knowing they could not attend the prestigious Coca-Cola 600 as fans, Grieser, his wife Ann and their family drove down to the Chip Ganassi Racing shop to see the car in front of the shop — and, specifically, to see Phil’s name on the car.
Gaunt Brothers Racing
Daniel Suarez and his GBR brethren will honor the memory of U.S. Army SPC Ronald David Rennison of Dubuque, Iowa, who was killed in action Feb. 25, 1991, along with 27 other individuals by a Scud missile strike in Dhahran in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. There is a personal connection between SPC Rennison, who was 22 at the time of his death, and the GBR Toyota team. Rennison’s younger brother, Randy, was a high school friend of GBR road crew mechanic Barry Boeckenstedt. Randy Rennison served in the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps and was stationed in Korea at the time of his brother’s death. — Courtesy Gaunt Brothers
The windshield header of Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford Mustang will carry the name of Private First Class Andy Krippner of Garland, Texas, who lost his life in Kunar Province, Afghanistan in 2011. Krippner spent just six weeks in Afghanistan and celebrated his 20th birthday days before his death. He lost his life when the Army vehicle he was in hit an improvised explosive device. The other soldiers killed in the attack included SSGT Kristofferson B. Lorenzo, 33, of Chula Vista, California; PFC William S. Blevins, 21, of Sardinia, Ohio; and PVT Thomas C. Allers of Plainwell, Mich. The soldiers were part of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
SHR fabricator Matthew Ridgway joined that battalion after the incident and said he “knows them as well as you could know someone you‘ve never met based on the stories from fellow soldiers (I) served with.” — Courtesy SHR
Richard Petty Motorsports
Fallen Tuskegee Airman, Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson will have his name displayed above the windshield of driver Bubba Wallace’s No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet. as part of NASCAR‘s Coca Cola 600 Memorial Day tribute at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, May 25, 2020. The car will also be painted to resemble the iconic A-10 Thunderbolt II, right down to the tiger shark teeth on the grill.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps, a precursor of the U.S. Air Force. Pilots, navigators, maintainers, bombardiers, instructors and support staff all trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. The Tuskegee Airmen flew more than 15,000 sorties during World War II in Europe and North Africa.
Dickson, who was assigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron, flew 68 missions during WWII. On December 23, 1944, he was returning from a reconnaissance mission when his Mustang P-51 experienced engine failure. His plane crashed along the Italy-Austria border, according to the Pentagon. Searches of the crash site were unsuccessful, and in 1949, the military declared his remains non-recoverable. — Courtesy U.S. Air Force
No. 2 Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski will compete with SSGT Michael Donovan Reep’s name atop his windshield in Sunday night’s 600-mile event. Reep, a member of the 27th SOCES (Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron) out of Cannon Air Force Base, lost his life in Columbia, South Carolina in 2015.
In the tweet below, Keselowski had the honor of giving Reep’s family the chance to be the first to see the Ford Mustang with his name on it via a video call.
This is what this weekend is all about. On Sunday, we race for SSgt. Donovan Reep, his family and the other heroes who have lost their lives protecting our freedom. It was a privilege to let his family be the first to see his name on my car. Hope to make them proud. pic.twitter.com/IM5Bn13xkh
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) May 23, 2020