Austin Dillon: Giving back on Fort Bragg visit
May 22, 2014, Austin Dillon, Special for NASCAR.com, NASCAR.com
Editor's Note: Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Dillon visited Fort Bragg on Tuesday as he prepares to run his first Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, FOX). Dillon writes about his appreciation for the military and looks forward to running NASCAR's most grueling race with the team that has won it two of the last three years.
Being at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend has always been special. I've watched a lot of races here and to see our troops carry the flag out onto the track and be a part of that this year is going to be very special.
In between the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race weekend and the Coca-Cola 600, I had the opportunity to visit the troops at Fort Bragg. Any time you get to come out to one of our military bases, especially here in North Carolina, where I was born and raised, it’s exciting.
I took a high school trip there and got to watch them pack parachutes and learn about what they do on the base. I feel a little at home when I’m around Fort Bragg.
Military members are some of the most avid fans of our sport. It’s very cool to see an actual hero love what we get to do on the weekends and be part of the races. I had the chance to meet several families at the Fort Bragg Commissary South store. At more than 180 military commissaries, shoppers can enter the 2014 Champion's Week Sweepstakes.
Coca-Cola Racing Family NASCAR driver Austin Dillon greets a young fan at the Fort Bragg South Post Commissary on Tuesday in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/NASCAR via Getty Images)
It’s awesome what NASCAR and Coca-Cola are teaming up to do, to bring our military members to our NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion's Week in Las Vegas, where they get to come hang out with us when we’re out of our element and enjoy our final weekend of the year, celebrating our champion.
Everybody loves Vegas so it’s cool to have our military members be part of that.
In March, I teamed up with Cheerios to donate General Mills products to underprivileged families in the Las Vegas area. Visiting Nellis Air Force Base and also having the opportunity to give back to the men and women who fight for our country was an amazing experience and one that I'll never forget.
Last September, I joined my grandfather, Richard Childress and several NASCAR drivers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. We had a good day, and it really made me appreciate the sacrifices our military and their family member make for our country.
Our military members are the ones that allow us to race on the weekends, and the NASCAR community rallies to support our troops. You can show your support by logging on to the Goodyear Gives Back online auction. I made the first bid on my tire at Goodyear.com/givesback.
Coca-Cola Racing Family NASCAR driver Austin Dillon poses for a photograph with Rebecca, Easton and Jeremy Morelock and their race-worn Goodyear Support Our Troops tire at the Fort Bragg South Post Commissary on Tuesday in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Heading back to the track this weekend, it's taken a few NASCAR Nationwide Series races to figure out what it takes to run well at Charlotte because the track does change so much from daytime to night. Your balance shift is pretty big and having a little bit of notes helps you. That's why it's tough for rookies to come here for the first time, but I feel like we've got a great team.
It's my first time running a 600-mile race. I ran Texas Motor Speedway last year and this year. Both of those races are 500-mile races. Why not give it 100 miles more and see what we've got? I think you prepare for the race a little bit earlier in the week. It's an important hometown race. It's going to be hot. I feel like you do have to prepare for it as much as you can, but until you get in there in that environment you really don't know. I'll do my best early in the week to hydrate.
If we can look back and use some of the notes that Kevin Harvick was able to gain last year and run well here with, the new style where we're running these cars so low, it's a little bit different than what they brought here a year ago. But we can still look at the notes, see what changes they made going into the race that helped them and see if that benefits us.
I've been fortunate enough to watch a bunch of races here, sitting in Turn 1 with sponsors from Richard Childress Racing over the years in a condo up there. I sat with my family and my grandfather and remember Harvick winning here and being able to run down the stands and get to Victory Lane and being a part of that was awesome.
On Sunday night, I hope I can drive my No. 3 Cheerios Chevrolet SS into Victory Lane and join Matt Kenseth as the only other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender to win the Coca-Cola 600.
NASCAR, Coca-Cola, Mars Chocolate North America and Mondelez have collaborated to create a unique program designed to engage authorized shoppers in over 180 military commissaries. Shoppers can enter the 2014 Champion's Week Sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champions Week by texting NASCAR Salute to 313131 or visiting http://2014championsweeksweeps.com/
(L-R) John Moore, commissary director, Specialist Ricardy Achille, Coca-Cola Racing Family NASCAR driver Austin Dillon, Capt. Jennifer Rodriguez, and Matt Shulman, managing director of marketing platforms at NASCAR, at Fort Bragg South Post Commissary on Tuesday in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. As part of 'NASCAR: An American Salute,' NASCAR teamed with official partners to give military members across 180 commissaries a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas for NASCAR Sprint Cup Champions Week. (Photo by Grant Halverson/NASCAR via Getty Images)