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 country’s 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 season – 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 Dale Griffin on his M&M’S Red, White & Blue Toyota. Griffin, a native of Terre Haute, Indiana lost his life in Afghanistan in October 2009.
Busch, the defending Coca-Cola 600 winner, unveiled the patriotic paint scheme that will adorn his No. 18 M&M’S Red, White & Blue Toyota Camry in this year’s race back on May 8 and was honored to be joined by Dona and Gene Griffin, the parents of Army SGT Griffin. Busch hopes that, just like SGT Eric Toth one year ago, he can take SGT Griffin’s name and legacy to victory lane this weekend.
In addition to honoring a fallen soldier, the No. 18 M&M’S Red, White & Blue Toyota Camry features a patriotic paint scheme itself that celebrates M&M’S Red, White & Blue Mix available at local retailers where the M&M’S brand will help to support America’s troops. For every pack of M&M’S Red, White & Blue Mix purchased between May 1 and Aug. 31, a donation will be made to the USO to help entertain the troops. This is part of the $250,000 that Mars Wrigley Confectionery has pledged to the USO this year.
Busch will look to honor Griffin 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 looking to bring home back-to-back victories in the crown jewel Coca-Cola 600 to follow up his dominant performance from one year ago.
Busch actually broke through in the Cup Series at Charlotte two years ago in the 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 the 2017 All-Star win and last year’s Coca-Cola 600 win, both on the 1.5-mile oval.
In his 29 previous Cup Series starts at Charlotte over the past 13-plus seasons, Busch has managed to enjoy plenty of success there with 12 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s. In addition to solid Cup Series finishes, Busch has captured eight NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at Charlotte – May 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010, October 2008 and 2009, and both May and October 2013. He also has eight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins at the track – 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019.
So, this Memorial Day weekend, Busch will look to bring home his second crown jewel win at Charlotte and, at the same time, honor SGT Griffin and all troops who have given the ultimate sacrifice, as well as those who continue to serve America and the Red, White & Blue.