Harrison Burton and the No. 21 DEX Imaging team are headed into the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a dual mission. They’re hoping for a strong run in Sunday’s race, the longest race, distance-wise, on the Cup Series schedule. And they intend to honor a fallen servicemember as part of the track’s annual 600 Miles of Remembrance.
Crew chief Brian Wilson said he and the other members of the DEX Imaging team, like people across the country this weekend, will be remembering those who gave their lives in service of their country.
“Heading into Memorial Day weekend, everyone on the No. 21 Ford is thinking about those who served, and currently serve our country,” Wilson said, adding that he has family members for whom Memorial Day has an extra special meaning. “Both of my grandfathers served in World War II, and both of my brothers-in- law were also in the Armed Forces.”
This weekend, Wilson will be a part of paying tribute to a young soldier who gave his life for his country.
“The DEX Mustang will proudly honor Sgt. Shawn M. Dunkin, who served in the Army,” Wilson said. “We’re planning to host members of his family this weekend and hope to make them proud with our performance.”
Sgt. Dunkin, who lived in Columbia, S.C., joined the Army in 2001. He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq on Feb. 19, 2007, when he died from injuries suffered when his vehicle was struck by a bomb. Two of his fellow soldiers, Matthew Bowe and Adare Cleveland, also were killed.
At that time Dunkin was serving as a calvary scout leader with B Troop, 1st Squadron, 89th Calvary Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10thMountain Division out of Ft. Drum, Ky.
He was 25 years old.
His military decorations include the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Good Conduct Medal and the Combat Action Badge.
In interviews after Sgt. Dunkin’s death his family members told reporters stories they’d heard about him, including his giving the family Bible to a fellow servicemember who was struggling. And they learned that at the time of his death, Sgt. Dunkin had given up his leave so a younger soldier could return to the States and see his newborn child.
In another interview, Michael Dunkin described his son as “an All-American boy” who loved hunting, fishing and just being outside.
Having the Dunkin family in their pit area this weekend at Charlotte and having Sgt. Dunkin’s name on the No. 21 DEX Mustang gives the Wood Brothers team added motivation to build on the speed they’ve shown in recent races on intermediate-length tracks like Charlotte.
“We believe we hit on a setup in Kansas that Harrison liked and which produced very competitive lap times,” Wilson said. “We took those same setup ideas to Darlington, where we came away with one of our most competitive weekends this season.
“We’ll head to Charlotte with a building notebook and hopes of improving on our competitiveness.”
Practice for the Coca-Cola 600 is set for Saturday at 7 p.m., and will be followed by qualifying at 7:45.
Sunday’s 400-lap, 600-mile race is scheduled to get the green flag just after 6 p.m. with TV coverage on FOX. Stage breaks are planned for Laps 100, 200 and 300.