What better way to kick-off Memorial Day weekend than with a NASCAR race and Richard Childress Racing? As the eventful weekend approaches, emotions are high due to what this holiday means for everyone, something that NASCAR takes great pride in highlighting each year for the Coca-Cola 600 event. This is not like most race weekends; this weekend is meant to be a memorable one. Memorable for all those who have served while fighting for our freedom. As the lights shine over Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday evening, the Coca-Cola 600 is designed to pay honor and tribute to fallen U.S. service members by adding their names to the windshield of each driver’s car, which is part of the 600 Miles of Remembrance Program. Behind the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 pre-race ceremony is one of the most immaculate of the season.
The 600-mile race wouldn’t be the same without long-time partner Coca-Cola. Not only has Coca-Cola teamed up with Charlotte Motor Speedway to add their name to the special event, but the world-renowned brand has also been a partner of Richard Childress Racing’s for 25 years. Austin Dillon’s No. 3 team has been working hard for the chance to bring home a victory for RCR, and what better time to do it than at this weekend’s race, which marks the anniversary of his first win in the Cup Series just six years ago.
On May 28, 2017, Dillon stood in victory lane with one of the season’s most unique trophies, a refurbished Coca-Cola refrigerator. Dillon joined David Pearson (1961), Buddy Baker (1967), Jeff Gordon (1994), Bobby Labonte (1995), Matt Kenseth (2000), Jamie McMurray (2002), Casey Mears (2007), and David Reutimann (2009) as one of nine drivers to secure their first Cup Series wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
RCR’s No. 3 and No. 8 teams are prepared the longest race of the season, consisting of 400 laps, 4 Stages and 600 miles in hopes of earning another RCR Cup Series victory. It’s the fallen soldiers who Dillon and teammate Kyle Busch carry with them on their windshield this weekend that makes this race different than others.
Dillon will carry the names of not one, but two fallen soldiers this year on the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet. Navy SEAL Mark Crampton and U.S. soldier Rusten Smith are just two of the many who lost their lives fighting for our country’s freedom. Combat Veteran Master Chief Crampton served as a leading petty officer, platoon chief, and commander master chief of the U.S. Navy Seals during his 27 years of active duty within the Naval Special Warfare Community. Master Chief Crampton played a vital role in operating with Team SEVEN, SEAL Team ONE and the Naval Special Warfare Center (BUD/S). He also served as a member of the Navy Leap Frogs Parachute Team and as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Special Operations Directorate of Iraq. Master Chief Crampton served 13 deployments to Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. After he retired from the military, Master Chief Crampton served 10 years as the education Program Specialist/Instructor at the Naval Special Warfare Center, while recently being inducted as a member of the Training Cadre at SEALFIT. Members of his family are planning to attend this weekend’s race and watch his name be honored during the 400 laps around Charlotte Motor Speedway in remembrance of him.
The second fallen soldier represented on the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet this weekend is Rusten Smith, who was only 32 years old when he made the ultimate sacrifice in training. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rusten Smith was with nine other soldiers in a nighttime training accident that happened just recently on March 29, 2023. Smith joined the U.S. Army in 2012, where he was an instructor pilot for the 101st Airbourne Division and served in Afghanistan and Germany. Smith is survived by his wife, Caroline, and their three children; his mother, Brenda, and Father, Rad; his sister, Lena (Monty) Turner; his aunt, Audrey “AJ” (Rich) Morris; grandparents and many other of his family members. According to news-leader.com, Smith “loved to hunt, fish, walk the woods, and run the rivers,” said Smith’s aunt AJ Morris. “We couldn’t be more proud of the husband, father, and warrior (Smith) was and the choices he made in life,” said members of the Morris family.
In addition to representing these fallen service members, Bass Pro Shops is reminding all military members to take advantage of the Bass Pro Shops Legendary Salute. This program provides active military and veterans a year-round discount at all Bass Pro Shops locations.
Busch’s No. 8 Alsco Chevrolet will observe fallen soldier Jack William Roper. Part of Alsco’s wish for this year’s paint scheme was to include “poppy” flowers painted on the TV panel of his car, which will represent the observance of Roper’s tragedy. Roper was born on April 1, 1923, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to John and Mignonne Roper. He graduated from Granite High School in Salt Lake City and worked at the Western Electric Company before enlisting in the U.S. Navy. During World War II, he served as a Radio Technician Second Class aboard the USS Mahan (DD 364), a destroyer that played a pivotal role in the Pacific Theater. Roper’s life was tragically cut short on December 7, 1944, during the Battle of Ormoc off Leyte, Philippines, when Japanese kamikaze aircraft severely damaged the ship. Roper was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for his bravery and sacrifice. His legacy lives on through his loved ones. His service and ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty stand as a testament to his unwavering commitment to preserving freedom during one of the most challenging periods in world history.
In addition to this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race, Richard Childress Racing will honor fallen law enforcement officers through a unique partnership with Whelen and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) for Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race. Read more here.
This event is more than a standard race for RCR’s partner Alsco Uniforms who will not only be sponsoring Busch in the Coca-Cola 600, but also has the entitlement for the Xfinity race on Saturday, as well as the primary paint scheme for RCR’s Austin Hill who will pilot the No. 21 Alsco Chevrolet, all in addition to being featured on Busch’s No. 8 Alsco Chevrolet.
Saturday’s Alsco 300 will air on FS1 at 12:00 p.m. ET, followed by Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 set to air on FOX beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET.