BROOKLYN IN CHARLOTTE – Actress and former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker grew up just down the road from Charlotte Motor Speedway, but she had never been to the superspeedway before Sunday, when she will serve as Honorary Race Director for the Coca-Cola 600.

Decker was the special guest of Coke Zero, who introduced Decker and other dignitaries to the media Sunday in the media center.

U.S. Army Col. Gregory D. Gadson, who has served in every major conflict in the last 20 years and also appears alongside Decker in the movie “Battleship,” will give the command to start engines.

“I want to thank Coke and the USO and NASCAR for highlighting the military on this Memorial Day weekend,” said Gadson, who lost both of his legs above the knee when an IED exploded in Iraq. “It’s really important that you are able to honor the service of those who gave full measure. I’m a big race fan. If it goes fast, I’m going to watch it. So I’m really excited to be here in Brooklyn’s hometown.”

So was Decker, who seemed somewhat ashamed to admit that she’d never been to the speedway before. But she got a full introduction Sunday, spending time in Victory Lane for a photo opportunity with new Coca-Cola Racing Family driver Danica Patrick, a friend from her Sports Illustrated modeling days (both were featured in the swimsuit issue in 2009).

The ladies met in Victory Lane with a Coca-Cola showcar, a pit crew, a jack, tires and a fuel can, ostensibly to have Decker learn how to execute a pit stop. But Decker’s short white sheath dress didn’t exactly lend itself to slinging 24-pound tires around, so they ended up talking about shoes and clothes for a bit instead.

When the pit crew showed Decker how they fuel the car, she had a lot of questions and even held the large can to try it herself.

“Is it magnetized?” she asked as she tried to insert the fuel can in the car. “It doesn’t latch in? Well, that doesn’t seem very smart. There has to be a better way!”

Quite the good sport, Decker even tried to jack the car up, putting her full weight on the jack bar, which didn’t budge.

“Am I doing this at all?” Decker asked before a crew member executed the proper technique. “And I thought I was a strong girl!”

Decker and Gadson both said they would be cheering for the Stewart-Haas Racing drivers – Tony Stewart, Patrick and Ryan Newman – once their official duties ended.

Additional celebrities on hand for today’s pre-race include Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle; Earl Ray Tomblin, West Viriginia governor, who will serve as Grand Marshal; Rear Admiral Frank Thorp, who will serve as the honorary commander; and Pat McCrory, candidate for Governor of North Carolina, who will serve as honorary starter.

McGRAW TO INTRODUCE THE FIELD – GRAMMY Award winning country music singer Tim McGraw will introduce the field for today’s Coca-Cola 600. An ambassador for Pennzoil, McGraw will be representing the brand’s Long Live Cars campaign.