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Helton: Support of military a year-round effort

July 05, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Helton: Support of military a year-round effort
NASCAR, USO partner for 'NASCAR: An American Salute' send-off

Related: NASCAR: An American Salute

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It was the final official event, capping off this year’s “NASCAR: An American Salute” initiative.

But it is far from the end of the overall effort.

NASCAR President Mike Helton, along with several NASCAR drivers, USO and NASCAR Foundation officials and volunteers, gathered Friday morning at Daytona International Speedway to help assemble approximately 2,500 “With You All The Way” kits aimed at promoting self-confidence and resiliency among children of military families.

"It's in our DNA to help military families understand how grateful we are."

-- NASCAR President Mike Helton

“This is a very visible period, from Memorial Day to Independence Day,” Helton said. “We kick it off with the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend (and) for its entire history the 400 in Daytona has been a patriotic event.

“So it just makes sense for those two events to be the bookends.”

The effort to recognize and assist those who serve in the military “is ongoing,” he added.

“It’s something that may not be as visible as it is in this window, but certainly it’s something that’s equally important.”

Penske Racing driver Joey Logano has been able to “see up close what the USO does for families” through his involvement with the group’s various programs.

Logano has ventured to places such as Kuwait, Germany and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as part of NASCAR’s effort to recognize and honor military members and their families. Such trips, he said, have provided him with the opportunity to “see up close what the USO does for the families.

“(They’re) trying to make it a bit more of a home atmosphere, a little bit more enjoyable for (the families),” he said. “This is a great thing and I’m proud that NASCAR has teamed up with a great opportunity like this … that is able to help out a lot.”

Other drivers taking part in the event were Jeff Gordon, Nelson Piquet Jr., Blake Koch, Sam Hornish Jr., Parker Kligerman and Michael Annett.

The activities for the NAAS platform surrounding the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, TNT) and tonight’s Subway Firecracker 250 powered by Coca-Cola Nationwide Series race (7:30 p.m., ESPN) weren’t limited to package preparation. Patriotic paint schemes are featured on several of the cars competing at Daytona this weekend while sponsors such as Goodyear kept the initiative rolling through its “Goodyear Gives Back” program. Sponsor Eckrich provided one wounded warrior and his wife with a ride-along with driver Aric Almirola in a Richard Petty Driving Experience Ford, and the Armed Forces Foundation will join NASCAR to welcome sailors who served aboard the USS Gettysburg guided-missile cruiser through the Troops to the Track program.

“It’s in our DNA,” Helton said, “to help military families understand how grateful we are and to encourage our fans to do the same thing; it’s evolved with the sport. Bill France Jr. and certainly Bill (France) Sr. were adamant about NASCAR being a voice to remind everybody that there were men and women who were making sacrifices so that we had the opportunity to do the things that we enjoy.

“And a lot of it had to do with the fact that (France Sr.) created NASCAR right after World War II … he had a very direct purpose behind it.

“But that culture was passed on and handed down; as NASCAR grew, that responsibility grew with it.”

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