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It’s more than just another weekend. It always has been.
Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is another unique opportunity for Kurt Busch and NASCAR to honor fallen members of the US military and their families. Whether at the track or outside of it, Busch has continued to make it his dedicated mission.
Each year, the NASCAR Salutes Together with Coca-Cola initiative shows support and appreciation during Military Appreciation Month for all those who have served. The culmination of the month-long initiative is the race on Memorial Day weekend.
“This weekend is a crown-jewel event,” Busch told NASCAR.com. “With it being Memorial Day (weekend), it’s motorsports’ weekend to shine around the world, with F1 (Formula One), Indy (IndyCar), us and with the way we finish it off strong with the 600. All of the pre -race and the pageantry and the respect that we’re showing as a very patriotic group, it hits you. You feel it. And it leads into honoring our service member.”
That service member is Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent of the US Navy.
“She paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Busch said. “Learning more about the families, learning what they’ve had to go through and inviting them to the race is how I have tried to get more integrated, show respect and learn about all of the different people involved.”
MORE: 600 Miles of Remembrance, honoring the fallen
Each year before Charlotte’s spring race, if able, Busch invites the family of the fallen service member to the track and spends time getting to know those who join. It’s not just a decal on the car. It’s personal.
But for Busch, the mission doesn’t stop after the checked flag waves in the Coca-Cola 600. In fact, it’s not even where it starts. Busch is actively involved with Vet Tix, an organization that provides sporting-event tickets to military veterans and their families. He sees the chance to be an ambassador for different organizations as more hands working together for the same goal.
“There’s NASCAR’s help and our stuff we are doing with 23XI (Racing), but Vet Tix takes it and makes it simple,” Busch said. “Sometimes Toyota jumps in to help, or the race track themselves will help. And so we’ve had as high as 800 tickets given away for one of the races in Phoenix.”
Through the various programs and initiatives, Busch has donated at least 100 tickets for every Cup Series race this season and plans to continue giving back. As a 22-year Cup Series veteran, he also understands the importance of setting an example for others in the garage. Especially for younger drivers and team members who may be taking in all of the emotions for the first time.
“It’s about teaching them through actions,” Busch said. “The compartmentalization of yeah, there’s race-track stuff and race-team stuff, but there is also the duty and the respect that you have to give back and work with charities and help put extra smiles on people’s faces.”
When the green flag drops on Sunday (6 pm ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), there’s no doubt Busch will be racing for more than just himself and 23XI Racing.