Air Force teams with NASCAR to aid recruiting

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Eric M. Grill
  • Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
The Air Force was on display at the Shelby 427 race March 1 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Nevada as the Air Force NASCAR was on hand for race fans to see and the Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, performed.

A crowd of 200,000 people witnessed Lt. Gen. Ronald F. Sams, the Air Force inspector general, enlist a group of future Airmen prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup series race.

Just before the race, the Thunderbirds flew over the racetrack. Members of the Thunderbirds also were on hand during the race to sign autographs. 

NASCAR fans got an upclose look at the Air Force paint-schemed No. 43 car on display during the weekend.

"Advertising and marketing that goes beyond the race track will help us connect with fans and emphasize the speed, power, precision and teamwork that is common to both NASCAR and the Air Force," said Col. Timothy Hanson, Air Force Recruiting Service strategic communications director, in January. 

Additionally, the sport of racing aligns well with the fans' interests and the Air Force's brand of speed, teamwork and technology, inspiring young Americans to consider the Air Force as a great career choice.

Air Force officials partnered with Richard Petty Motorsports and the storied No. 43 car, which Richard Petty has driven to 200 wins while winning seven Cup championships. Reed Sorenson is the current driver of the No. 43 car. 

"Representing the Air Force in itself is a great honor for not only me, but for everyone on the team," Mr. Sorenson said. "Having Richard Petty as part of our team as well is an added bonus. There is a lot of stuff going on and there are a lot of great sponsors like the Air Force to represent, and also having to back up the 200-plus wins that the No. 43 (car) has; we have a lot of good things going on for our team."

What parallels the Air Force mission and NASCAR is teamwork and what it takes to get the mission done, he said.

"I think that the teamwork that you see on the race teams and the teamwork you see in NASCAR kind of follows up with the teamwork you see in the Air Force," he said. "Every race is kind of like any type of mission that you would do in the Air Force. They seem to correlate together. They're both about speed and being fast; those go together as well." 

NASCAR and the Air Force are a natural fit, "because of the high-tech industry that you're dealing with," said Master Sgt. Jeff Phillips of the 368th Recruiting Squadron.  

"NASCAR correlates directly with the Air Force when you're talking about our airframes, power plants and different things like that even though (they are) completely different with internal combustion engines and a jet engine," Sergeant Phillips said. "Still, high-tech, very-dedicated individuals -- the very people that are committed to what they do with NASCAR -- team with the Air Force."

Having a presence in NASCAR gets Air Force in front of people and "that's ultimately what we're looking for," Sergeant Phillips said. "We have to have the time to interact with young people (and) parents. "It's actually a good event for us to interact with the parents and grandparents and people like that because they're also the influencers that we have to sell on the Air Force lifestyle as well." 

The Air Force-sponsored No. 43 Dodge finished the race in 34th place after spinning in turn two of lap 138.

While the Air Force is the primary sponsor on the No. 43 car for four of the 38 races in the 2009 season, the Air Force has a presence on the car as an associate sponsor throughout the rest of the season. Mr. Sorenson will drive the Air Force paint-schemed No. 43 Dodge at Talladega Superspeedway, Ala., Lowes Motorspeedway in Charlotte, Daytona International Raceway, Fla., and at Dover International Raceway, Del.

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