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Published on: Monday, July 8, 2024 read more ...

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2023 Coca-Cola 600 Champion Ryan Blaney Visits ANC

By Kevin M. Hymel on 5/14/2024

Ryan Blaney, the winner of 2023’s NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600, came to Arlington National Cemetery on May 1, 2024, to honor those who sacrificed all for their country. ANC Superintendent Charles Alexander, Jr. and Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Strategic Engagement Melanie Fonder Kaye greeted him and his group.

After visiting graves in Section 46, Blaney laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. With him were Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Greg Walter, Chief Executive of Speedway Motorsports Marcus Smith and Congressman Richard Hudson (R-NC).

Afterward, Blaney reflected on how humble he felt seeing the rows of graves and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. “It reminds me of how privileged we are to live in a country that has given us so much,” he said, “and it makes me think of all those men and women who laid down their lives for us.”

Both Walter and Smith were also moved by their visit. “You realize that every one of those headstones is a family story,” said Walter. “There’s a broken heart, a grieving family for the sacrifice someone made.” Smith appreciated the cemetery and its mission. “I’m so grateful that our country has set aside this special place to honor and remember those who served,” he said.

The event reminded Rep. Hudson of the families he represents at Fort Liberty (formerly Fort Bragg). “I think of the folks who made the ultimate sacrifice and left loved ones behind,” he said. “These men in the Unknown Tombs represent that for our nation.”

The Coca-Cola 600 takes place every Memorial Day weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, North Carolina, and honors fallen heroes and service members. The race includes the U.S. Army Drill Team, the U.S. Air Force Heritage of America Band, the U.S. Army Field Band Six String Soldiers and the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon. The windshield of every racecar contains the name of a fallen service member and halfway through the race, the cars stop and an announcer asks everyone to stand and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Walter, who has helped bring each Coca-Cola 600 winner to the cemetery for the last four years, said the experience is always the same for the driver. “By the time we get on the plane to go home, they say, ‘I had no idea,’ and that’s why their appreciation is so special.”