Earlier this week, as part of a month-long prelude to the 63rd running of the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day Weekend, Charlotte Motor Speedway concluded its Mission 600 campaign by hosting a virtual visit with Coca-Cola Racing Family driver Joey Logano and members of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing at Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait.
Mission 600 is a campaign that pairs NASCAR drivers with military bases designed to educate the NASCAR community about the day-to-day lives of the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.
As part of the hour-long virtual visit, members of the 386th AEW gave Logano, Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter and Performance Racing Network President Doug Rice a tour of one of the C-130 aircraft that serves Ali Al Salem Air Base and discussed the tenants of teamwork that – like with a NASCAR pit crew – are vital to mission success. The group compared notes on how the 112-foot aircraft powered by four 4,691-horsepower Rolls Royce-designed engines and supplied with a 6,250 fuel tank compares to its much smaller NASCAR Next Gen counterpart. Despite the differences in size and power, there’s also a great deal in common between NASCAR and the maintenance crew for a C-130.
For Logano, the opportunity to interact with so many specialists that keep the U.S. Air Force’s C-130 aircraft up and running – from engine and hydraulic specialists to those responsible for the aviation communications and all 40 miles of the electrical components that are required to operate the aircraft – drives home the vital nature of teamwork to mission success.
“You talk about how big the team is that is taking care of these airplanes… how it takes so many people to make it fly. It’s very similar to what we have in NASCAR in a lot of ways,” Logano told the unit. “You may just see the end product if you live near a base, but it’s the details and the prep that means everything. Everyone has a role. Your team’s much bigger than mine. Obviously you need everyone working on the same page. It’s one of the biggest challenges for us, too.”
Following the tour, members of the 386th AEW took the opportunity to ask the 28-time NASCAR Cup Series winner a variety of questions about everything from handling the challenges of being a good teammate when you’re racing for the win to how the 31-year-old driver stays positive during a slump.
“Attitudes are contagious. That is the number one thing to keep in mind,” Logano said. “Negative attitudes are just as contagious as a positive attitude, and it’s a lot easier to be negative than it is to be positive. We see that in our society. Sometimes it’s important to recognize things we can be better at, sure. But it’s doing that in a positive way and trying to find little wins throughout.”
At Charlotte Motor Speedway, Memorial Day Weekend provides the opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, particularly those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. The patriotic Coca-Cola 600 pre-race show includes representation from all six major branches of the military.
“You guys probably hear it a lot, but we take this for granted way too often in America about what you guys do for us,” Logano said. “We just live in our own little world and we worry about the little issues in our life when you guys are handling the big problems. And it’s easy for us to fall into this area where we just take stuff for granted. It’s easy for us to do that until you don’t have it any more. When you don’t have that freedom, that’s when the game changes. I think these holidays like Memorial Day are so important, but we should be acting like it’s Memorial Day every day.”
Previous Mission 600 visits this year included Denny Hamlin virtually meeting members of U.S. Army Central, Kuwait; Daniel Suarez visiting Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach; defending Coca-Cola 600 winner Kyle Larson and Jeff Gordon laying a wreath at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery and Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick spending a day with paratroopers at the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne’s Advanced Airborne School at Fort Bragg.
“These Mission 600 visits have taken on this life over the last few years,” said Walter. “One of the great things about our sport is the fact that our athletes really appreciate what our service men and women do each and every day – the fact that they are away from families and deployed abroad, but also the fact that the Coca-Cola 600 being on the eve of Memorial Day, we don’t lose sight of what that holiday is about and the fact that we pause and remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Tickets are still available for the May 27-29 Coca-Cola 600 Weekend, with three-day packages starting at $99. Weekend tickets for children ages 12 and under are just $10. Fans can purchase tickets online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or by calling the ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267). Admission to Circle K Speed Street concerts by Flo-Rida (Friday) and The Steve Miller Band (Saturday) is free with any race ticket. Sunday’s Lynyrd Skynyrd pre-race concert is free with purchase of a Coca-Cola 600 race ticket.