Pit Note 14: Wounded Navy Veteran Doug Hill Receives Terrain-Tracked Wheelchair, Charlotte Flair Preps for Pace Car Drive
Speedway Motorsports, Inc. unveiled a new initative Sunday before the Coca-Cola 600 that is designed to help members of the military make the transition back to civilian life.
"Our company does a lot around celebrating our armed forces, particularly this weekend and really everywhere across all eight of our speedways that are connected with multiple bases around the country," Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith said. "We wanted to really formalize that, and today I'm really proud to announce a new program called Welcome Home Patriots.
"Today, we celebrate and salute our heroes. We really want to do more to help our heroes come home and get them reengaged and re-acclimated into civilian life. That's what this is all about."
Welcome Home Patriots will be led by retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Chuck Swannack, who highlighted the three pillars of the program: Salute, Engage and Enable.
The "Enable" pillar was highlighted Sunday when the Independence Fund donated a terrain-tracked wheelchair to injured Navy veteran Doug Hill of Knoxville, Tennessee. The Independence Fund is a non-profit to help better the lives of catastrophically injured veterans, and its Mobility Program presented the wheelchair to Hill alongside Smith and Swannack.
"I want to thank everybody for having us out and all the great programs that made it possible for us to be here today," Hill said. "They've given great things to us and our family. Most of all, I think it's important that we remember what this weekend is all about. It's not about myself, it's not about any other veterans in the room - although I'm sure there's some pretty incredible ones around - but this weekend is about the guys who didn't make it home. It's about the fathers, the sons, the daughters, the brothers, the sisters - all of them who are missed this weekend, missed every day.
"This weekend, it's most important to remember the sacrifices they gave that we have the freedom to gather here and enjoy this great NASCAR event."
Swannack said Welcome Home Patriots will have several partner organizations like Independence Fund, Purple Heart Homes and others to help further the cause of aiding veterans.
"We're going to try to create that environment with those three pillars to welcome home our patriots who have served our nation," Swannack said.
WWE Superstar Charlotte Flair Excited for Honorary Pace Car Driver Role
Charlotte, North Carolina, native and WWE Superstar Charlotte Flair, who was selected to drive the honorary pace car prior to tonight's Coca-Cola 600, met with the media Sunday afternoon to talk about the experience.
"Actually I was more nervous to get certified today than wrestling in front of 100,000 people," said Flair, the daughter of wrestling legend Ric Flair. "I just had to make sure it was an automatic (transmission). … I am honored to be here. It was crazy driving here today and being home and seeing all of my friends. Charlotte is home and it has grown. But being able to drive the pace car and represent WWE makes me excited to be here."
Flair also noted what she has been doing in WWE.
"We are right now in the middle of a women's evolution," Flair said. "We just completed our Super Bowl of wrestling with myself along with Rhonda Rousey and Becky Lynch. Not three years ago we were doing five-minute matches and now we are headlining the Super Bowl of wrestling. We are trying to be role models for women and send that positive, confident, athletic image today. That's very important."
Ric Flair was a previous All-Star Race grand marshal. She made a prediction about his championship record.
"I'm half-way there to the number of championships he has had and I'm going to beat him," Flair said. "He told me not to speed (in the pace car). But he is just so proud of me. And I know he gets excited watching me perform."