When the biggest Memorial Day Weekend celebration kicks off at Charlotte Motor Speedway before the green flag drops on the Coca-Cola 600, fans will be part of one of the biggest military tributes in the race’s 55-year history.
From special recognitions of some of our military’s bravest, to a one-of-a-kind helicopter flyover and the return of the Patriot Partners program and Papa John’s Pizza Party for the troops, the Salute to the Troops portion of the Coca-Cola 600 pre-race show presented by the NRA will be something to behold.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick joined Charlotte Motor Speedway President and General Manager Marcus Smith to outline plans for the Coca-Cola 600 pre-race show during a special press event Tuesday.
“Over the years, Charlotte Motor Speedway has set the standard when it comes to showing our support of the armed forces, and this year will be no different,” said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. “We want to give all the men and women who have served in the past and who continue to fight for our freedom today a great big bear hug and let them know how much their service means to our country.”
In addition to the military highlights outlined below, speedway officials also announced that country music superstar Brantley Gilbert would be on hand for a 45-minute pre-race concert before the green flag drops.
Speedway to Recognize Medal of Honor Recipients
During the Salute to the Troops portion of the Coca-Cola 600 pre-race show presented by the NRA, Charlotte Motor Speedway will proudly recognize four Medal of Honor recipients on hand for the event.
Awarded for acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty, the Medal of Honor is the highest military honor that can be bestowed upon a soldier.
U.S. Army veterans Col. Joe Marm, Command Sgt. Major Robert Patterson and Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Morrison were all awarded the Medal of Honor for Actions during the Vietnam War. Staff Sgt. Ty Carter of the U.S. Army (former U.S. Marine Corps) earned his Medal of Honor for actions in the War in Afghanistan.
Businesses Sponsor Troops Through Patriot Partners Program
Charlotte Motor Speedway and its corporate partners will bring more than 1,200 troops and their families to the Coca-Cola 600 through the Patriot Partners program.
Corporate sponsors including Bojangles’, NRA, Smithfield, MillerCoors and Mercury One have stepped up to bring more than 30 busloads of troops and their families to the races. As part of the pre-race festivities, the buses will make a ceremonial parade lap around the legendary 1.5-mile superspeedway before parking along the frontstretch, where troops will exit the buses and be welcomed by more than 100,000 fans to their seats in the grandstands.
Military Vehicles Past and Present on Display Along Pit Road
Usually reserved for 800-horsepower stock cars, pit road will welcome a unique collection of vintage military vehicles during pre-race festivities.
Fans can see 15 vintage military vehicles on loan from the Veterans Service Corp of South Carolina as well as Humvees, troop carriers, a maintenance wrecker and a Navy SEAL Raptor from the North Carolina National Guard.
Seven-Plane Vintage Air Parade Creates Salute in the Skies
Seven vintage war birds will take to the skies before Sunday’s race as part of an aerial salute to the troops. The privately owned fleet includes a SNJ 5, a C-45, a T-28 Alpha, a T-28 Bravo and a C-46, among others.
Astronaut to Give Command from International Space Station
The Coca-Cola 600 has always been an international affair, with fans traveling from around the globe to take in NASCAR’s ultimate test of man and machine. But this year, Charlotte Motor Speedway is taking things to new heights when the grand marshal, NASA Commander Steve Swanson gives drivers the command to start engines from aboard the International Space Station.
Unique Flyover to Feature Four Types of Military Helicopters
The biggest Memorial Day Weekend celebration in the country wouldn’t be complete without a one-of-a-kind flyover to kick off the 55th running of the Coca-Cola 600.
Task Force Corsair, part of the 82nd Airborne Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade stationed at Ft. Bragg, N.C., will conduct a flyover featuring AH-64 Apache, UH-60 Black Hawk, CH-47 Chinook and OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopters.
Football Field-Sized Flag to Wave Over Pre-Race
As the national anthem plays during pre-race festivities, more than 120 volunteers will unfurl a football field-sized American flag on the infield. The flag, which measures 150-by-300 feet, is produced by 50 Star Productions.
With packages starting at just $99, fans can experience all the action and excitement that surrounds Coca-Cola 600 weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway with the Coca-Cola 600 Weekend Pass. The package includes tickets to see the stars of NASCAR hit the track to lay down the fastest lap during LiftMaster Pole Night on Thursday, May 22; a Saturday afternoon showdown as the NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers battle it out in the HISTORY 300 on May 24; and culminating with the historic 55th running of one of NASCAR's most prestigious events, the Cola-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 25.