Before Austin Dillon chases his second Coca-Cola 600 win in three years, the Coca-Cola Racing Family driver took part in a unique chase on Tuesday at Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach.
Dillon joined RCR pit crew members Paul Swan and Ethan Tingler for an in-depth, search-and-rescue mission as part of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Mission 600 – a series of interactive, regional military base visits in conjunction with the Department of Defense.
Dillon climbed aboard a 45-foot RBM (Response Boat – Medium) with his crew and members of Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach to learn the intricacies of a Coast Guard rescue mission in the Atlantic Ocean. Additionally, the 2017 Coca-Cola 600 winner took the opportunity to guide the RBM before he participated in rescue rope training exercises on shore.
“It was awesome,” Dillon said of his first Coast Guard visit. “Those boats are unbelievable machines. It’s like driving a big jet ski. We had a blast just seeing how smooth they are and listening to how the guys go through everything, they’re very good at what they do.
“I’m jealous that they get to whip around out there on those boats to save lives. It’s a very cool experience to see all the hard work they put into taking over these jobs. I really thank them for their service.”
Dillon has sampled life in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Coast Guard in his first two Mission 600 visits, both of which gave the Welcome, North Carolina, native a new perspective in his appreciation for the military. Last year, Dillon and his No. 3 RCR pit crew visited Fort Bragg where they unveiled their paint scheme for the 2018 Coca-Cola 600 and took part in an equipment demo with the infantry squad.
As part of the 600 Miles of Remembrance program, Dillon will carry the name of a fallen member of the U.S. Armed Forces on his race car’s windshield during the Coca-Cola 600. Dillon also participated in the program in 2018 and 2017.
“It’s very special,” Dillon said. “I feel like our fallen soldiers ride along with us. Their families become a part of our racing family.”
“The Coca-Cola 600 and Memorial Day weekend is probably my favorite weekend of the year. When we have the flyovers and everything that goes into that race, the preview of it is fun for us to watch and see the military represented so well.”
Chief Petty Officer Jeremy Thomas was among the members who hosted Dillon and his crew on Tuesday.
“It was great to see the interaction between Coast Guard members and Austin and his crew,” Thomas said. “It looked like they had a lot of fun. That’s the goal: to give them a chance to enjoy themselves and see a day in the life of the Coast Guard.”
The 2019 edition of the Coca-Cola 600 rolls off live on FOX on Sunday, May 26 beginning at 6 p.m. ET. Tickets are available.