(Pictured from L to R) Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola, Daniel and Leslie O’Dell and Tamara Langley of Operation Homefront.
SPARTA, Ky. – Army Specialist Daniel O'Dell knew he was going to a race at Kentucky Speedway, "but nothing else," the Illinois native said Thursday at the 1.5-mile track.
"We were told very little, just show up … and bring clothes," O’Dell explained.
O'Dell and his wife, Leslie, were presented a VIP race experience by Richard Petty Motorsports sponsor Eckrich as part of the company’s "Operation Inspiration" program.
The O'Dells will spend the weekend in a fully stocked motorcoach. On Thursday, RPM driver Aric Almirola was on hand to surprise the couple and thank them for their service.
They will receive team apparel, spend time with the crew during this weekend's NASCAR race activities and were presented a $1,000 Kroger gift card.
"It’s a big shock," Daniel O’Dell said. "To show up and get a massive, massive RV, food, we got to meet Aric, the gift card from Kroger … I don't know what to say."
While he said he is a fan, O’Dell admitted his mother is a bigger NASCAR fan.
"When I was in Iraq in '09, I bought my mom tickets to Chicagoland. She loves it. I've bought her tickets ever since, but I've never been," he said. "This kind of treatment is fantastic."
Crewmen from RPM stopped by to have dinner with the O'Dells on Thursday while country music artist Cheryl LuQuire performed a private concert for the group.
"I get a really big kick out of this," Almirola said. "It's not my money but I feel like I'm a part of it. Everything that Eckrich does through Operation Inspiration to give back to families like this … I get to be a part of a lot of these. It makes me feel really honored to have that opportunity to show these people a good time after all they have done."