- Tenn. Speaker Beth Harwell Named Grand Marshal of Coca-Cola 600
- S.C. Speaker Bobby Harrell will wave green flag to start Coca-Cola 600
- N.C. Speaker Thom Tillis to host nation’s largest Memorial Day tribute

Three top legislative leaders will be on hand for the nation’s largest Memorial Day celebration as they serve as race officials for the 2011 Coca-Cola 600. Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell will be Grand Marshal, South Carolina Speaker Bobby Harrell will be the Honorary Starter and North Carolina Speaker Thom Tillis will host his colleagues from neighboring states at the 52nd running of NASCAR’s only 600-mile race at the famed Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 29.

Paying tribute to all veterans and active U.S. military  servicemen and women, the spectacular show preceding the Coca-Cola 600 includes a military assault demonstration by Special Operations soldiers from Ft. Bragg, N.C., on-stage recognition of Medal of Honor recipients, the unfurling of a 11,250 square-foot American flag by family members of active-duty soldiers, and an inspiring flyover by military aircraft.

“We are honored to have such distinguished public servants—and three Speakers of the House—serve as race officials for the 2011 Coca-Cola 600,” said Lauren C. Steele, vice president,  corporate affairs, Coca-Cola Consolidated.  “It is great that these top legislative leaders will be on hand to pay tribute to America’s servicemen and women at the largest Memorial Day celebration in the nation.”

As race officials, the three Speakers will be honored at a pre-race event, attend the official drivers meeting, address the crowd of 140,000 fans, participate in the pre-race spectacular and present the trophy to the winning driver in Victory Lane.  As Grand Marshal, Tenn. Speaker Harwell will ride in the official pace car, while S.C. Speaker Harrell will wave the green flag over the 43-car field to start NASCAR’s most challenging race.  N.C. Speaker Tillis will direct the ‘Speaker Summit’ as host of the event.

Beth Harwell was elected as the first woman Speaker of the House in Tenn. history earlier this year.  She is currently serving in her 12th term in the Tenn. House and represents part of Davidson County.  She received her bachelor of arts degree from David Lipscomb University, an M.S. degree from George Peabody College, and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. She has been an assistant professor of political science at Belmont University. She and her husband, Sam, have three children,  Allie, Sam, and Tucker.
“I’m honored to be named Grand Marshal of the Coca-Cola 600, and it will be a privilege to take part in the ceremonies honoring our men and women in uniform at the largest Memorial Day celebration in our great nation,” said Speaker Harwell.

Bobby Harrell has served as S.C. Speaker of the House since 2005, and has represented Charleston and Dorchester in the S.C. House since his first election in 1992.  He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and owner of several small businesses.  He is currently serving as Chairman of the National Speaker’s Conference.  He and his wife, Cathy, have two children, Trey and Charlotte.

“Over our country’s history, great men and women have answered America’s call to protect her citizens from the threats of evil,” said Speaker Harrell.  “In doing so, many have fallen while protecting our way of life.  Their sacrifice serves as a reminder to us of the high price of freedom.  I am honored to be Honorary Starter for the Coca-Cola 600, which celebrates and honors their great service and sacrifice.”

Thom Tillis was elected N.C. Speaker of the House earlier this year after serving two terms in the N.C. House of Representatives, representing District 98.  Prior to his election in 2006, Tillis was a former partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and a management consultant to IBM.  He and his wife, Susan, have two children, Lindsay and Ryan.

“Hosting the nation’s largest Memorial Day celebration at the Coca-Cola 600 will be an honor. There are no citizens more worthy of recognition than our nation’s military, and there is nothing more uniquely North Carolinian than NASCAR,” Speaker Tillis said. “America is blessed with the most exceptional military personnel in the world, and North Carolina boasts a motorsports industry that serves as an economic engine providing jobs and private sector capital for our state.  It is also an honor to partner with a great corporate citizen like Coca-Cola, and I look forward to hosting fellow Speakers on Memorial Day at the Coca-Cola 600.”

Coca-Cola is the Official Sparkling Beverage of NASCAR and the sponsor of the Coca-Cola 600.  The Coca-Cola Racing Family includes top drivers Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton,  Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Bobby Labonte, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, and Tony Stewart, as well as alumni drivers Kyle Petty, Michael Waltrip, Dale Jarrett and Ned Jarrett.

Frontstretch tickets for the Coca-Cola 600 start at just $49 with great views of pit road and the world’s largest high-definition television. To purchase tickets, fans can call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or go online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.