MERL HAMILTON WINS PLUMMER AWARD: Merl Hamilton, Concord assistant city manager, received the 2013 Tony Plummer Excellence in Service Award Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Speedway officials created the Plummer award to honor someone committed to exceeding the customer's expectations and success in that pursuit. The award is named for Tony Plummer, who worked as a Windstream technician for 43 years - a large portion of which he serviced the speedway's account - before passing away last March.

"It's an honor to have my name associated with someone like Tony; it's very humbling," Hamilton said. "I know that there are very hard working people at Charlotte Motor Speedway who really concerned about customer service, and that's what we're concerned about at the city. It means something to me to get that kind of award from folks who I know are all about customer service."

Hamilton has worked with the speedway for a dozen years both in his current role and previously as the chief of police.

The inaugural award was presented to Plummer's widow last May.

SOME GAVE ALL: After more than half a century hosting the country's largest Memorial Day weekend celebration, it's well known that Charlotte Motor Speedway's home colors will be red, white and blue on a backdrop of camouflage for this stirring Coca-Cola 600 weekend salute to our nation's active and retired military heroes.

Below is a snapshot of the military programs, tributes and salutes taking place this weekend.

PATRIOT PARTNERS: Businesses and fans are helping to bring up to troops to the speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 through this program, which sponsors buses to bring troops from Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C., Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C. and Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C.

Companies participating include Coca-Cola, Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Smithfield, Goodyear, Bojangles', HEAR USA, Thunder Road Harley Davidson, Cross Roads Harley Davidson, Ohio Logistics, Precision Walls and more.

SPECIAL LUNCHEON TO FEED 10,000 TROOP, FAMILIES: Up to 10,000 troops and family members will be taken to zMAX Dragway for a special celebratory lunch provided by Papa John's. This special event will be emceed by HLN's Robin Meade, who will later sing the national anthem for the Coca-Cola 600, and will include special appearances by Lt. Col. Oliver North (ret.), NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Kurt Busch and Trevor Bayne, Charlotte Motor Speedway President and General Manager Marcus Smith, and "Papa" John Schnatter himself. The event will be held at zMAX Dragway from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and also feature live music and a drag racing exhibition with Smith and Papa John.

'WELCOME HOME OUR TROOPS' PRE-RACE SHOW: This stirring program includes a performance of "I Will Give My All" by country music artist Jamie Tate and the 82nd Airborne All-American Chorus, a bagpipe performance of "Amazing Grace" by the Charlotte Fire Department Pipe Band and "Taps" played by a Fort Bragg bugler. There will also be a 21-gun salute from the Fort Bragg Firing Squad.

Fans will be able to salute the troops when 600 soldiers from Fort Bragg walk through the grandstands to the infield to participate in pre-race ceremonies. Medal of Honor recipients Bob Patterson (Vietnam), Gary Littrell (Vietnam) and Walter Joseph Marm (Vietnam) will be recognized on the pre-race stage.

Additionally, Lt. Col. Oliver North, a combat-decorated U.S. Marine and the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel, will receive the Stonewall Jackson award from Charlotte Motor Speedway officials for his unwavering support of the military, decades of service to his country and a continued commitment to service.

North will also deliver a moving "State of Freedom" speech during pre-race festivities and sign autographs in The Speedway Club for a limited number of military members. The address and the salute for the military portion of the pre-race show is presented by NRA Life of Duty.

Sgt. Aaron Causey, a veteran of both the US Air Force and Army, will serve as Grand Marshal for the Coca-Cola 600. Causey was injured in Afghanistan in 2011 by an IED that he was trying to disarm, taking both of his legs and two fingers, in addition to leaving many other physical and emotional scars.

Finally, 43 servicemen who have recently returned from duty will be paired up with the pit crews of the 43 drivers in the Coca-Cola 600, helping to set up the pit box and staying in the team's pit area through the first part of the race.