As an overture to its Memorial Day weekend tribute to the US Armed Forces, NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway sent Kyle Larson and Jeff Gordon to Arlington National Cemetery. The defending Coca-Cola 600 winner Larson and NASCAR Hall of Famer Gordon represented their Hendrick Motorsports team by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Arlington National Cemetery is the resting place for approximately 400,000 American servicemen and women, including soldiers killed in action during every major United States conflict since the American Revolution.
Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith, Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter, and North Carolina Congressman Richard Hudson also joined the ceremony. Rep. Hudson’s eight district includes Charlotte Motor Speedway and Fort Bragg.
The group also toured a private collection of cemetery artifacts and watched the famous changing-of-the-guard ceremony in front of the iconic tomb. Members of an infantry regiment known as The Old Guard stand watch 24 hours a day over the tomb. The tradition began in 1948 after world War II.
Larson and Gordon said NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 really resonates with military families on Memorial Day
“One of the honors of winning the Coca-Cola 600 is getting to come to Arlington National Cemetery and (Washington) D.C.,” Larson said. “I’ve never been here before. Seeing the ceremony for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was truly special. It’s a huge honor. There is so much prestige with the 600. Then having a tradition like this just adds on to that.
“I’m proud to be here today, proud to pay my respects and get to feel the sense of honor here. As I get to come here and experience these things, it gives you even more of an appreciation for the men and women who have sacrificed their lives and are currently serving. Being here today, getting to shake so many hands was special. I look forward to the 600 even more. I’m excited to get back there again. Hopefully I can win again and make another trip.”
Gordon echoed the sentiment from Larson, pointing out that how much race really means to families of military personnel, both active and deceased. Each Memorial Day weekend, Charlotte Motor Speedway pays tribute to the military during a pre-race show that includes all five branches of the military.
“Tradition is obviously a big part of NASCAR. And a big part of the Coca-Cola 600 is being on Memorial Day weekend,” Hendrick Motorsports Vice Chairman Gordon said. “I love that Charlotte Motor Speedway and NASCAR came together to bring the past champion of this event to Arlington. Seeing the changing of the guard, laying that wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it really speaks volumes and connects what the 600 means to families out there who have lost a loved one in battle. And those who are currently serving.”