Army Specialist Daniel O'Dell and his wife never thought they would be meeting a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver at the Kentucky Speedway on Thursday afternoon. So, imagine their surprise when they walked into a luxury motorcoach and were greeted by Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 Eckrich Ford. Almirola was there to thank O'Dell and his wife for their military service and to inform them the motorcoach would be theirs for the race weekend as part of a VIP race experience, courtesy of Eckrich.
The state-of-the-art motorcoach the O'Dell family will call home for the next two days is designed to give the family the best possible view of the race action. Equipped with a sky deck and other amenities, the O'Dell family will have everything they need to enjoy the NASAR Sprint Cup race in luxury.
Eckrich also honored the O'Dell family with a cookout to remember. With a refrigerator full of Eckrich smoked sausage and Kroger products, the family was treated to a surprise cookout with live entertainment by country music artist Cheryl LuQuire. They were also joined by members of the Richard Petty Motorsports team. Almirola also invited the O'Dell family to be his personal guests Saturday night as a part of the Eckrich race team and provided them with authentic Eckrich crew shirts and hats. In addition, he presented them with $1,000 in groceries at Kroger - all on behalf of Eckrich.
The VIP race experience, cookout and groceries provided to the family are all part of the Eckrich "Operation Inspiration" campaign, which supports and honors military families. Almirola, whose father served in the military, has experienced the sacrifices made by military families firsthand, making it easy for him to be a part of the campaign.
"This is such a great program to be a part of because I can relate to what these families have gone through and the sacrifices they have made," said Almirola. "I'm just proud to give back, and this motorcoach the O'Dell family will enjoy this weekend rivals that of any one that a driver stays in, including my own. Thanks to Eckrich, it's going to be a great experience for them."
Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc., is in its third year of partnership with Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit which provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.Eckrich has already donated more than a half a million dollars to the charity. Eckrich is again donating up to $250,000 this year through the contribution of five cents from each purchase of specially marked products from May 1 through July 4.
"We hope the O'Dell family can enjoy the motorcoach and the race weekend in style," said Charles Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group. "We enjoy honoring and thanking our military families with Eckrich and our 'Operation Inspiration' campaign. It's our way of showing our appreciation and doing something special with our partners at Richard Petty Motorsports and Aric."
The O'Dell family was taken aback by the surprise and is looking forward to enjoying the experience at the Kentucky Speedway.
"This is just too much," said O'Dell after the surprise. "I've never been to a NASCAR race and I can't believe Aric Almirola was here to greet my wife and I. It's just really exciting and I am really thankful to Eckrich, Aric and Richard Petty Motorsports for giving us this opportunity. There is no better way to view my first race than this."