By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
The 2016 Coca-Cola 600 marked the second year of NASCAR’s 600 Miles of Remembrance program. In addition to the patriotic paint schemes that many teams ran, on the windshield of every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car, where the name of the driver usually sits, was instead the name of a fallen service member. Most of the names hit close to home for each NASCAR team.
For some, like SO3 Denis Christian Miranda, whose name adorned Kyle Larson’s No. 42 Target Chervolet, was once the roommate of Graham Molatch. Molach’s is the jackman on Larson’s pit crew.
The family members of each fallen service member that NASCAR represented were invited to attend the race. For the family members that did attend, they were surprised with miniature replicas of the windshield that bared their loved ones’ names.
The 600 Miles of Remembrance, thanks to Charlotte Motor Speedway, does not only apply to fallen service members. The pre-race activities included live military reenactments of traditional military exercises, which were conducted this year by members of the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army. Also in attendance for the race were numerous veterans of the Armed Forces, who were recognized during the pre-race activities.
Many have their own connections to the 600 Miles of Remembrance. For some, they are veterans, for others, their husband, father, son, wife, mother, or daughter, may be the one being represented on a car. I have my own connection to the 600 Miles of Remembrance, but it is probably not what you may be thinking.
I have not had a relative serve in the Armed Forces, nor have I served in the Armed Forces. If it was not for the United States military, in World War II, I would not be here today. My Grandparents were survivors of the Concentration Camps in Germany. NASCAR’s 600 Miles of Remembrance gives me the opportunity to not only thank active service members for their service, but also to thank veterans.
During my time this past weekend, not only did I spend time in the garage, but I also made my way to the fan zone, where I was able to thank several veterans. I was also able to do the same last year, when I was not a member of the media and was a fan. In 2015, which was the first 600 Miles of Remembrance, I was lucky enough to have hot passes for the Coca-Cola 600 as a fan at that time.
While I was in the garage, and in the fan zone, I made it a point to thank any service member and veteran that I happened to bump into. Several veterans, gave me strange, puzzled looks. Some even asked me why I was thanking them. After I would tell them about my Grandparents, and their families, they understood. One veteran, politely and respectfully declined to answer me what war he served in when I had asked him, but after I told him why I was thanking him, he remarked, “I’m happy that what we did was worth it.”
For me, a common love of NASCAR, has helped me pay it forward, and thank our troops, for everything, they have done, and those who gave up everything to allow us to experience the sport which we love.
Image: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images