Earlier this week, Coca-Cola Racing Family driver and team owner Denny Hamlin met via zoom with troops from US Army Central and US Army 163rd Camp Buehring Cavalry Regiment, Kuwait, as Charlotte Motor Speedway kicked off its 2022 Mission 600. Leading up to the 63rd annual Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend, Mission 600 is designed to honor the men and women of the United States Armed Forces by pairing drivers with military bases to educate the NASCAR community about the daily lives of the men and women who serve.
Separated by more than 6,800 miles, Hamlin and the troops found plenty in common during their hour-long conversation, which covered topics ranging from leadership and teamwork to training regimens and differences of working diagrams between a military tank and a Next Gen racing car.
Hamlin was even given a personal tour of the inner workings of an M1A1 Abrams tank and was introduced to each member of the tank’s four-person crew, who explained their respective roles and responsibilities as commander, gunner, charger and driver.
“When they go out they know what they’re doing,” SSG Thomas Moore said. “But that only happens if we have that leadership, we have that ability. As the captain said about being on the battlefield, being coordinated, especially with medical teams, recovery teams, it’s like your supply team. We have those roles that are ready to play at any time.
After the tour, members of the unit inundated Hamlin – a 17-year-old NASCAR driver and most recently co-owner of 23XI Racing – with questions about balancing his dual role as driver and owner, how he stays fit for handle the rigors of a 130-degree race car that some of his mentors were climbing the ranks of.
“What a normal person couldn’t do inside our cars, deal with the heat,” Hamlin said. “Maybe you guys, because it doesn’t look cool inside those tanks. But you know, it’s usually 130 to 140 (degrees) in the car. And here we are- in it for four hours and there’s no AC power outage or anything like that.
“About the 130 degrees in the car, that’s kind of what it’s like out here,” Moore joked.
Hamlin’s virtual tour is the first of six scheduled engagements for the 2022 Mission 600 campaign. In the coming weeks, fellow Coca-Cola Racing drivers Daniel Suarez and Austin Dillon are scheduled to visit La Garde station respectively. coastal Wrightsville Beach and Fort Bragg, while Joey Logano is expected to travel virtually with a U.S. Air Force unit overseas. Additionally, Kurt Busch will visit Camp Lejeune and Kyle Larson – the defending Coca-Cola 600 winner – will visit Arlington National Cemetery.
“The connection of our military and our community of drivers and fans truly embodies what the Coca-Cola 600 is all about,” said Greg Walter, executive vice president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. “One of the wonderful things about our sport is the sense of patriotism that our fans have, that our athletes like Denny have – a genuine appreciation for what our service members do every day. What Mission 600 does is bring those two worlds.
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