With help from Eckrich, an American icon recognized an American hero today in Atlanta. NASCAR Hall of Famer "The King" Richard Petty surprised Navy Counselor 2nd Class (AW) Peter Theodoracopoulos and his family with the opportunity to be honorary crew members of his No. 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup race team this weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Petty gave the Theodoracopoulos family authentic Eckrich crew shirts and even asked Peter to practice his skills changing a tire. Although Theodoracopoulos may not actually change the tires during the race, he will have the opportunity to help the pit crew as they prepare the car for Sunday's race.
Along with waving the green flag to start the final round of Sprint Cup qualifying Friday night, Theodoracopoulos will get a ride in the pace car around one of the fastest tracks in NASCAR and then spend the afternoon with the team before watching the race from the pits of the No. 43 team. Petty also presented the family with a gift card for one-year of FREE groceries at Kroger, on behalf of Eckrich.
The surprise and weekend crew member experience is courtesy of Eckrich, sponsor of Richard Petty Motorsports and supporter of Operation Homefront, through its "Operation Inspiration" campaign, which supports and honors military families. Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc., has given back to military families all summer with the help of Richard Petty and Richard Petty Motorsports.
"It's really important for us to give back to our military veterans and their families," said Petty. "We're partnering with Eckrich to give the Theodoracopoulos family a once in a lifetime experience, but we're really saying 'thanks' for all they have done and given for us. They are the special ones this weekend and hopefully it means a lot to them."
Eckrich is in its third year of partnership with Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit which provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.Eckrich has already donated more than $750,000 to the charity.
"It's thanks to partners like Eckrich and Richard Petty Motorsports that Operation Homefront is able to support military families when help is needed the most, like when the family car breaks down, a utility bill can't be paid, or when the unique demands of military service necessitate the help of others," said Tom Greer, vice president, communications and outreach for Operation Homefront."
"There is no way to better way to spend a race weekend then with 'The King' of NASCAR himself," said Charles Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group. "We are proud to give Peter and his/her family this experience and we hope they enjoy their gift card at Kroger as well. They are a tremendous family and outstanding representatives of those who sacrifice for all of us in service to our country."
The family is humbled by the surprise.
"I've never been to a NASCAR race, but I'm a big fan and was surprised to see Richard Petty," said Theodoracopoulos. "I just can't believe our family was selected to be honored by Eckrich and Operation Homefront to receive this great experience. This weekend will be an amazing time with the race team and I'm looking forward to it."
Richard Petty Motorsports, Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich Ford will race Sunday evening with live coverage on ESPN beginning at 7:30 p.m.