The last weekend in May always has special meaning to Americans, for whom it is a time to remember and honor the soldiers who lost their lives while serving in the United States military.
For race fans, in particular, the weekend is uniquely special in that America’s fallen soldiers are honored in the many festivities surrounding what is widely recognized as the biggest racing weekend of the year. In the United States, the racing day starts at historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the iconic Indianapolis 500, and finishes under the lights at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway with the longest race of the Monster Energy NASCAR’s Cup Series – the Coca-Cola 600. Not only are they famous and historic racing events, but both host many active duty military and both have traditions that honor soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
With that, a familiar way of honoring fallen soldiers returns with the NASCAR Salutes program over the summer, beginning with this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600. NASCAR Salutes at Charlotte features “600 Miles of Remembrance,” during which each car in the field will carry the name of a fallen soldier on the windshield. Busch has the honor of displaying the name of SGT Eric Toth on his M&M’S Red, White, and Blue Toyota. Toth, a native of Glasgow, Kentucky lost his life in Iraq in March 2005.
In addition to honoring a fallen soldier, the No. 18 M&M’S Red, White and Blue Toyota Camry features a patriotic paint scheme itself that celebrates M&M’S Red, White and Blue Mix.
Busch will look to honor Toth and all fallen soldiers with a strong run in his patriotic scheme, and he’ll be heading into the 13th points race of the season still looking for his first points-paying win at Charlotte.
Busch actually broke through in the Cup Series at Charlotte in the last year’s non-points All-Star Race for his first Cup Series win of any kind at the 1.5-mile oval. Ever since his childhood in Las Vegas, some of Busch’s favorite race-watching memories came during Charlotte’s iconic Coca-Cola 600 and All-Star Race during the month of May. He dreamed that one day he, too, could be the one hoisting the trophy at one of stock car racing’s most hallowed grounds, and he finally accomplished that goal with last year’s All-Star win at Charlotte.
He now has his sights set on Charlotte’s biggest prize – a Coca-Cola 600 win. In his 28 previous Cup Series starts there over the past 12-plus seasons, Busch has managed to enjoy plenty of success on the oval nicknamed the “Beast of the Southeast” with 11 top-five finishes to go with his 16 overall top-10s. In addition to solid Cup Series finishes, Busch has captured eight NASCAR Xfinity Series wins – May 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010, October 2008 and 2009, and both May and October 2013. He also has seven NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins at Charlotte – 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2017.
So, this Memorial Day weekend, Busch will look to accomplish a career goal – a win at the only track among the 23 on the current Cup Series schedule where he has yet to visit victory lane in a points-paying race, and at the same time honor Toth and all troops who have given the ultimate sacrifice, as well as all those who continue to serve America and the Red, White, and Blue.