On the eve of Memorial Day, this weekend’s historic running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway will once again pay tribute to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces with a rousing tribute featuring representation from all six branches. Fans will be treated to aerial and ground demonstrations, moving musical performances and more as part of the patriotic pre-race salute.

Lt. Gen. Christopher T. Donahue, a highly decorated United States Army officer, is set to deliver the State of Freedom Address prior to Sunday’s showcase of speed. With more than 30 years of service, Donahue has held numerous leadership positions. He is currently the commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps out of Fort Bragg. Outside of military circles, he may be best known as the last international military personnel to leave Afghanistan during America's military withdrawal from the country in August of 2021.

In a show of unity among the nation’s military branches Donahue will be joined on stage during the address by Capt. Andrew C. Hertel (U.S. Navy), Maj. Gen. Michael G. Koscheski (U.S. Air Force) and Capt. Richard E. Batson (U.S. Coast Guard).

Other military elements scheduled as part of the pre-race salute include:

  • 82nd Airborne Band: perform God Bless America, America the Beautiful, Carolina on my Mind
  • U.S. Army, Fort Bragg: Aerial Blackhawk demonstration, Howitzer demonstration
  • Armed Forces Color Guard and drummers from the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own”: Presentation of Colors
  • U.S. Army Chaplain Stephen F. Townsend: Invocation
  • Charlotte Fire Department Pipe Band: Amazing Grace
  • The United States Navy Ceremonial Guard: Small Arms Volley
  • The United States Coast Guard Band; Musician Petty Officer First Class (MU1) Joel W. Baroody: Taps  
  • U.S. Marine Corps, 2nd Aircraft MC Band: National Anthem

In addition, a service member will be paired with each driver in the starting lineup for driver introductions on the pre-race stage.


Tickets are still available for the May 26-28 Coca-Cola 600 weekend, with three-day packages starting at $99. Weekend tickets for children ages 12 and under are just $10. Fans can purchase tickets online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or by calling the ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267). Admission to Circle K Speed Street concerts by AC/DC tribute band Dirty Deeds (Friday) and Jake Owen (Saturday) is free with any race ticket. Sunday’s pre-race concert by The Doobie Brothers is free with the purchase of a Coca-Cola 600 race ticket.


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