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NASCAR salutes military at Memorial Day race

Reed Sorenson, NASCAR driver of the Richard Petty Motorsports #43 Air Force Dodge Charger, races around the Lowe's Motor Speedway at 186 mph during Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race May 25. The #43 was painted in an Air Force paint scheme as a Salute to the Military for Memorial Day.
(U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Reed Sorenson, NASCAR driver of the Richard Petty Motorsports #43 Air Force Dodge Charger, races around the Lowe's Motor Speedway at 186 mph during the Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race May 25. The car was painted in an Air Force paint scheme as a salute to the service for Memorial Day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Reed Sorenson, NASCAR driver of the Richard Petty Motorsports #43 Air Force Dodge Charger, races around the Lowe's Motor Speedway at 186 mph during Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race May 25. The #43 was painted in an Air Force paint scheme as a Salute to the Military for Memorial Day.
(U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Reed Sorenson, NASCAR driver of the Richard Petty Motorsports #43 Air Force Dodge Charger, races around the Lowe's Motor Speedway at 186 mph during the Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race May 25. The car was painted in an Air Force paint scheme as a salute to the service for Memorial Day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Tops in Blue the Air Force's premiere entertainment showcase preform before more than 100,00 NASCAR fans May 24 during a Salute to the Military during Memorial Day festivities at the Lowe's Motor Speedway Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race, Charlotte, N.C.
(U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Tops in Blue, the Air Force's premiere entertainment group, performs before more than 100,000 NASCAR fans May 24 during a salute to the military for Memorial Day. The group performed during kick off festivities for the Coca-Cola 600 race at the Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Tops in Blue the Air Force's premiere entertainment showcase preform before more than 100,00 NASCAR fans May 24 during a Salute to the Military during Memorial Day festivities at the Lowe's Motor Speedway Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race, Charlotte, N.C.
(U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Tops in Blue, the Air Force's premiere entertainment group, performs before more than 100,000 NASCAR fans May 24 during a salute to the military for Memorial Day. The group performed during kick off festivities for the Coca-Cola 600 race at the Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Reed Sorenson, NASCAR driver of the Richard Petty Motorsports #43 Air Force Dodge Charger, straps into his race car before practice trails May 23 in preparation for the Lowe's Motor Speedway Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race, Charlotte, N.C.
(U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Reed Sorenson, driver of the Richard Petty Motorsports #43 Air Force Dodge Charger, straps into his race car before practice trails May 23 in preparation for Coca-Cola 600 at the Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

NASCAR legend Richard Petty checks the status of the #43 Air Force Dodge Charger, one of four cars he oversees under Richard Petty Motorosports brand May 23 before NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Charlotte, N.C. 
(U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

NASCAR legend Richard Petty checks the status of the #43 Air Force Dodge Charger, one of four cars he oversees under the Richard Petty Motorosports brand. The car was preparing to compete in the Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AFNS) -- NASCAR saluted the men and women of the military past and present during pre-race festivities for the Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race at Lowe's Motor Speedway here May 24.

The salute included performances by the 82nd Airborne Division Chorus, the 2nd Marine Division Band and the Air Force's Tops in Blue entertainment group. Two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters also dropped a team of Soldiers onto the infield, where the unit conducted a mock assault on an enemy position, complete with a barrage from two M198 Howitzer artillery pieces. After driver introductions, the Black Daggers, the Army's official Special Operations Command parachute team, performed a jump over the speedway.

During opening ceremonies for the race, a group of Soldiers performed a 21-gun salute and members of Tops in Blue sang the National Anthem.

The number 43 car, which is sponsored by the Air Force, was also painted in Air Force colors with the service's symbol displayed prominently on the car's hood - a paint scheme that is only used several times each year.

"It was all just so awesome," said Richard Reynolds, a NASCAR official for the race. "It's great to see all these military people and to have the chance for us all to tell them how much we appreciate them and what they do."

NASCAR has a long of history of support for the military. Every year the race falling on Memorial Day weekend is used to salute all the nation's uniformed services.

"The partnership between the military and NASCAR is a great one," said Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon, Air Force director of logistics and an honorary grand marshal for the race. "And it's not just NASCAR, but the fans are terrific, too. They really love the military and they show it."

The fans shouted praise, shook hands and thanked as many military people as they could.

"I never served in the military, but I'm glad I can do something to serve them for one day," said Ryan Jefferson, a volunteer security guard at the event.

But it wasn't only the fans that demonstrated their love for the military. Drivers, pit crews and other celebrities at the race also praised the men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

"Our military men and women are awesome," said Kristen Dalton, Miss USA and another honorary marshal. "I'm honored to be here and be part of the events saluting them."

While the pre-race activities ran smoothly, the race itself was postponed due to weather. Downpours forced NASCAR officials to delay the race until the next day, Memorial Day.

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