Ryan Newman will battle for his first Coca-Cola 600 victory in the historic event's 60th running on May 26, but the tenacious Coca-Cola Racing Family driver witnessed a different form of battle preparation on Wednesday at Fort Bragg.
As a patriotic preview of Charlotte Motor Speedway's Memorial Day weekend Salute to the Troops, Newman continued Mission 600 by visiting soldiers at Fort Bragg - the world's largest military installation featuring more than 50,000 active duty personnel of the U.S. Army.
Additionally, Newman joined Rachel and Jamie Nolen, a Gold Star Family, in unveiling the remarkable No. 6 Ford Mustang that Newman will drive in the Coca-Cola 600. As part of NASCAR's 600 Miles of Remembrance program, Newman's car will feature the name of the late Sgt. James Nolen, who passed away in 2009 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
During his trip on Wednesday, Newman - outfitted in full infantry gear - took a ride in a RAZOR military vehicle and participated in a parachute packing demonstration before his race car's paint scheme was revealed in a special presentation.
"It's an honor for me to drive a race car that has a fallen soldier's name on it," Newman said. "To have their family at the race track and what Coca-Cola, Charlotte Motor Speedway and NASCAR does, it's such a family-oriented sport to give back in a special way on Memorial Day weekend. To have Sgt. Nolen's name on the windshield is just a small part of what I'll have in the form of an angel riding inside my car on race day.
"The class of soldiers, I've always said, is second to none," Newman said of the Army soldiers he met. "The personalities, the character, all the good parts of being a human show up in U.S. Army soldiers. Today showed me that even more. It's important that we all embrace that and no family does it better than NASCAR.
Newman also visited with the Nolen family and troops from Sgt. Nolen's former unit, which is based at Fort Bragg. Sgt. Nolen's widow, Rachel, shared the importance of continuing to honor her late husband's legacy and how much it meant to have his name riding with Newman during NASCAR's Memorial Day Weekend salute to the troops.
"It means the world to us to be able to celebrate James' life, to honor him and for everybody to learn about James," said Rachel Nolen, who brought her daughter, Jamie, to the event. "It's an amazing experience."
Along with Mission 600's thrilling build-up to the Coca-Cola 600, thousands of troops will join fans in the race-day festivities, which will include static military displays and interactive showcases in the Fan Zone. Additionally, 600 troops comprised of members from all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces will be on the frontstretch during pre-race activities.
Mission 600 kicks off the festivities, with upcoming visits tentatively slated to feature Kyle Larson at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island on April 29 and Austin Dillon at U.S. Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach on April 30.
Through the speedway's "Patriot Partners" program, race fans or corporate customers can buy a ticket for a member of the U.S. Armed Forces for just $25. Tickets will be distributed to active-duty personnel and their families through the USO.
Prior to the green flag, ticketholders to the Coca-Cola 600 can also enjoy a free pre-race concert featuring Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Cheap Trick.
As part of the salute to the military, race fans are encouraged to use the hashtag #KnowYourMil.