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Soldiers to be honored at Martinsville

October 26, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

Military heroes tabbed honorary starter, grand marshals for Tums Fast Relief 500

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- There's not much SPC Matthew Lee McClintock enjoys more than turning a wrench or watching NASCAR.

Just last week, McClintock, 22, took advantage of the rentable garage lifts at Fort Bragg, N.C., to change out a clutch on his pride and joy -- a 2004 Nissan 350Z that he says turns 412 horsepower when he takes it to the drag strip.

"My dream job is to someday own my own tuner shop," says McClintock. "I'd love to be able to rip apart a block, put it back together and build someone's dream car for them, so when they step on the gas they feel the power, immediately."

Currently in the process of protecting those kind of American dreams, McClintock will get to feel the power in a different sense on Sunday, as one of the grand marshals for the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Along with Sgt. Chase Noble, who also hails from the 1-508th, 4th Brigade Combat Team, Sgt. Chad Willis from the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) and PFC Albert Boston from the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), McClintock will issue the command for drivers to start their engines on Sunday.

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Solomon from the XVIII Airborne Corps will serve as honorary starter and wave the green flag to start the race as Tums salutes U.S. military heroes.

"My initial interest in NASCAR began when I was 12, when my dad took me to my first race at Texas [Motor Speedway]," recalls McClintock. "I remember driving down there from our home in Norman. I was all bug-eyed. I immediately fell in love with the smell of octane and rubber and the sound of monstrous, rumbling engines and [air] wrenches."

McClintock returned to the races at Texas and has also been to a NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. But Sunday will be his first trip to a short track like Martinsville.

And he's excited about the timing, getting to participate in the seventh of 10 Chase races with his favorite driver in an enviable position.

"The crazy thing is [who's atop] the leader board. Brad Keselowski in the No. 2 Dodge. That's my man, right there," says McClintock, who has been married a little more than a year and anticipates being deployed, perhaps to Afghanistan, in 2013.

"I'm so grateful to be given this chance to help start the Tums 500," he says. "It will be an experience I'll never forget. I hope that one day I can share my affinity for cars with my children, like my father did with me."

Tums antacid is expressing its gratitude to servicemen and women, like McClintock, by providing 500 soldiers from Fort Bragg, Fort Lee and air men and women from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base tickets to Sunday's race.

"The United States military and each base are critical to the defense of our country," says Steve Kinsey, brand manager for Tums. "For the Tums Fast Relief 500, we wanted to salute the servicemen and women that protect our freedom. For the military dignitaries and guests who will be in attendance at the race and for those at home, we can't thank them enough for their contributions."

Solomon , who joined the Army in 2000, has seen three combat tours -- two in Iraq, one in Afghanistan.

Like McClintock, Boston, who hails from Staunton, Ill., attended basic training at Fort Sill, Okla. He then received advanced training at Fort Jackson, S.C. and Airborne training at Fort Benning, Ga.

Willis, a native of Columbia, S.C. was raised in a military family, joined the Army in 2007. After participating in Operation Iraq Freedom in 2008-09, he returned to the Middle East and recently participated in Operation New Dawn. He and his wife of eight years have three daughters.

Noble, a big truck fan from Port Arthur, Tex., joined the Army in 2006. He was twice deployed to Iraq out of Fort Stewart, Ga., then in 2011 was assigned to the 82nd Airborne and deployed to Afghanistan.