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Memorial Day Weekend at the Races Honors Fallen Soldiers

Memorial Day Weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 is not only a NASCAR tradition but also an opportunity to honor the fallen. In its eighth season, NASCAR Salutes Together With Coca-Cola honors the service and sacrifice of US service members and their families. This past weekend concluded the NASCAR Salute with the 600 Miles of Remembrance — the competing drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series each featured a service member’s name on their windshield header, and the friends and families of the service members are hosted at the race. 


This weekend’s race now takes the title of the longest NASCAR race (distance-wise) to date at 619.5 miles, beating out the 2020 Coca-Cola 600, which had held the title with 608 miles. Note: the inaugural 1960 event lasted longer time-wise at 5 hours and 30 minutes. The 2022 race was also only 44 seconds short of the longest modern-era NASCAR race, the 2005 Coca-Cola 600. 


 

 

 

Noah Gragson qualified eventh to kick off the Alsco Uniforms 300 and in just four laps was in the top spot for his race. At the end of Stage One, he was in third place, earning eight points in the process. After some power loss, under-the-hood work, and ultimately losing a cylinder during Stage Two, Gragson had to catch up to earn his spot back and managed to finish his race in fourth place. This weekend on the track earned him 41 points, and he now trails first place in the Xfinity Cup Series by just 33 points. 

 

 


“That was a heck of a comeback for this Bass Pro Shops/TrueTimber/Black Rifle Coffee team,” Gragson said. “Luke [Lambert, crew chief,] and the guys stayed calm and got whatever it was fixed, and once they did, we were really fast. I am so proud of the way we fought all day long and so proud of everyone for never giving up. This is the kind of race we’ll look back on and remember on the way to the playoffs.”


Gragson races under the Xfinity Cup Series with the Black Rifle Coffee Company sponsorship, but he also races in the NASCAR Cup Series and participated in the Memorial Day tradition of honoring the fallen on his other car. Gragson drove with Pfc. Sam W. Huff’s name on his windshield. Huff deployed to Iraq with the 170th Military Police Company, 504th MP Battalion, 42nd MP Brigade, from Fort Lewis, Washington. She died April 18, 2005, from injuries sustained when an IED detonated near her vehicle the night before her combat patrol was to return from the al Dora police station in Baghdad, Iraq. Huff was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, and Good Conduct Medal.


Photo by Samantha Jones/Petty GMS.


Memorial Day Weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway marked Ty Dillon’s fourth Coca-Cola 600 race. Dillon’s #42 Black Rifle Coffee Company Chevrolet carried the name of a fallen soldier, US Army Sgt. Maj. Christopher Nelms, on the front windshield of his car. 


Nelms served 28 years in the Army, first as an infantryman and then as a part of the Army National Guard’s 19th Special Forces Group, deploying six times with Delta Force to Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Twice in his career, Nelms was awarded the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest award for valor. Nelms died from injuries sustained during a military training accident in North Carolina. The name selection was made by none other than Evan Hafer, who also served with 19th Special Forces Group. 


“It’s always an honor and privilege to represent Black Rifle Coffee Company and all of the veterans they have within their company, but this weekend, to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country is something that I don’t take lightly,” Dillon said. “Because of the men and women in our armed forces, we are able to race every week and live in a free country. To have Sgt. Maj. Christopher Nelms riding with me this weekend is so cool. He lived a life of service, from serving in our military for 28 years to also serving in his local community as a firefighter. Honoring his ultimate sacrifice is the least we can do to say thank you and to allow his family to know that he isn’t forgotten.”

Photo by Samantha Jones/Petty GMS.

Since Dillon is a native North Carolinian, Charlotte Motor Speedway is Dillon’s home track, only 40 miles from his home. 


“So much of my life was started and created here [at Charlotte Motor Speedway],” Dillon said in a press conference. “So many special things that mean so much [to me]. I mean, first-time ever making a lap in a racecar was on the track right outside the jumbotron [...] I met my wife here at this track when we were little, and now I get to bring my kids here. So this is a very special place.” 


Dillon started in 28th position and finished 13th, earning 26 points for the weekend, and he was, notably, the only driver who avoided having his name on a caution sheet. Overall, Dillon is still ranked 26th, with 246 points for the season. 


“Our Black Rifle Coffee Company team battled hard tonight,” Dillon said. “We showed adversity by overcoming numerous different obstacles — from starting the race with the steering being very tough to manage and almost having a left rear tire coming apart, to missing the wrecks at the end and putting ourselves in a position to get a solid finish.” 


Photo by Samantha Jones/Petty GMS.

“Our Chevrolet Camaro couldn’t fire off as good as others, but overall, it was the best mechanical handling car we’ve had all year, so I’m happy with that,” Dillon said. “Everyone seemed to have the same speed after eight laps, and I thought we had a little advantage at that point. The fire off just would hurt us from charging on the restarts. We are growing as a team each and every week, and this was another step in the process. Proud of the effort.”


Gragson heads to Portland Raceway Saturday, June 4, for the next Xfinity Cup Series race, while Dillon is off to the World Wide Technology Raceway for the Enjoy Illinois 300 on Sunday.