ON NASCAR: Nothing’s More Red, White and Blue Than Green, White and Checkered

By Cathy Elliott
ON NASCAR: Nothing’s More Red, White and Blue Than Green, White and Checkered
More of an endurance contest than a race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) serves as a showcase for some of the team and driver attributes we forget about during shorter, beating-and-banging-style events, things like patience, fortitude and strategic thinking. 


These skills are also critical to success in times of war. So it seems somehow appropriate that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ most grueling contest is run on Memorial Day weekend. 


Memorial Day was first officially observed in 1868, as a day to remember those who have fallen while serving our nation. NASCAR is a sport that is unflinchingly respectful of our country; CMS traditionally stages an exciting pre-race show with a patriotic theme, and in 2009, when rain forced the race to be postponed from Sunday to Monday, NASCAR actually threw the red flag during the event in order to observe the National Moment of Silence. 


We have all experienced and enjoyed a lot of NASCAR noise over the years, but that moment of silence was one of the most spectacularly moving things ever heard at a racetrack. 


Stock car racing simultaneously honored not only one of its own greatest heroes, but one of America’s great heroes as well, when Bud Moore was inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame on May 23. The legendary team owner, with 63 wins and two championships to his credit, stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in 1944 in service to his country, earning five Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars over the course of his military career. 


As he accepted his HOF accolades early in the week leading up to Memorial Day, Moore took time to remember a campaign of a much different sort. 


“It's a great honor to be inducted here in the Hall of Fame. I'm going to say it's one of the biggest honors I've ever had. As far as my racing career, I had a lot of big honors,” he said. “One big honor I had with myself was getting back from World War II. The good Lord looked after me while I was over there. That was a very, very big honor.” 


There is a demographic of folks born during the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, referred to as “Generation Me,” purportedly subscribing to the theory that individual needs should always take top priority. That is certainly a less than patriotic view of things, but fortunately, it isn’t all-pervasive. There are still plenty of people out there who believe that patriotism means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country. 


This is particularly evident in NASCAR. While most drivers have foundations that donate money to worthy endeavors all over the world, they remain aware of what’s happening right here at home and are willing to roll up their sleeves to offer help where it is needed. 


Bobby Labonte, for example, will be on site at a North Carolina Food Lion grocery store on Wednesday, June 1, to help collect donations for those affected by tornadoes in the Tarheel State back in April. Joplin, Mo. native Jamie McMurray has extended his support for victims of the recent tornadoes in that part of the country and is expected to visit his hometown in the next few weeks. 


A special Armed Forces Foundation paint scheme was designed for David Reutimann’s Coca-Cola 600 car, which he hopes will bring more public awareness to the organization. They do a lot of great things for the soldiers that have been wounded or served and are serving. They continue to help out with all kinds of things, whether it’s helping furnish homes or sometimes they build new homes for soldiers that have fallen on hard times. It seems like the Armed Forces Foundation is always there to lift them up,” he says. 


Just as NASCAR supports America and its armed forces, our military in turn supports NASCAR. The National Guard, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force are among past and present racing sponsors. 


Ryan Newman currently drives the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet. "The Coca-Cola 600 always carries more meaning for … our race team," he says. "Though it's a big weekend for motorsports, we must remember that it is also Memorial Day weekend, which is a time to pause and pay tribute to all the men and women of the military, past, present and future. Their bravery and strength as fighters for freedom have allowed us to do what we love to do."


President John F. Kennedy once said, “ HYPERLINK "http://thinkexist.com/quotation/a_nation_reveals_itself_not_only_by_the_men_it/164350.html" A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.” All professional sports have their selling points, but when it comes to a love of country and a willingness to actively demonstrate that commitment, no one does it better than NASCAR. 


One of my favorite parts of a race occurs before the first lap is run. Prior to each event, the teams line up on pit road. Before they go flying around the track, a pre-race prayer for their safety, and for the safety of the nation, wings its way toward Heaven. A full color guard raises our nation’s banner – the American flag – to the sky. 


Then, with their hands over their hearts, and their families standing at their sides, the drivers and their teams join the crowd in singing America’s national anthem. 


Before a single green, white or checkered flag waves, NASCAR always takes time to honor the red, white and blue. 


Cathy Elliott, the former director of public relations for Darlington Raceway, is a syndicated columnist for NASCAR and author of the book “Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR.” (for David M. Kinchen's review on this site:http://archives.huntingtonnews.net/columns/100423-kinchen-columnsbookreview.html). Contact Cathy atcathyelliott@hotmail.com.

 

 

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