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Local Sports

Auto racing: Chicagoland Speedway to honor military, past and present, on new dates

JOLIET – A strong argument can be made that of all of the major sports, NASCAR has done as good of a job as any of consistently honoring the U.S.

And as the president of a racetrack positioned directly in America’s heartland that is privileged to host a NASCAR event, Chicagoland Speedway’s Scott Paddock always is happy to wave the red, white and blue for his country.

That’s why he’s pleased to announce that the speedway will incorporate even more tributes to this nation and the brave men and women who serve or have served it during its new dates on the NASCAR schedule.

The dates are June 28 to July 1, and the weekend will be capped by the running of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Overton’s 400.

Taking full advantage of its new spot on the NASCAR schedule that runs just before the Fourth of July, the four races, which also include the ARCA Racing Series Scott 150 on June 28, the Camping World Truck Series Overton’s 225 on June 29 and the Xfinity Series Overton’s 300 on June 30, are being referred to as the Stars and Stripes weekend.

“NASCAR throughout its history does patriotism very well in a very sincere and genuine manner,” Paddock said. “They really honor and appreciate, as does the NASCAR fan base, the role that our servicemen and women, both the veterans and our active personnel, play in protecting our freedoms. I always say that NASCAR is the quintessential American sport since it represents a tremendous slice of Americana. And honoring our servicemen and women is a big part of that. And that’s why it’s a big reason that everyone associates NASCAR with American values more so than any other sport.

“We’re partnering with a number of service organizations, and that’s a big part of what the weekend is about. It’s a celebration of America and our celebration of American values and freedoms and certainly honoring our men and women in service. And you’re going to feel that sense of American pride and patriotism throughout the weekend when you step on our property. We’re going to bring it to life in a big way.”

The Illinois Patriot Guard Riders will ride their motorcycles in the NASCAR Cup Series hauler parade on June 29, in the July 1 opening ceremonies as well as other events.

The Illinois Fallen Heroes Traveling Memorial Wall, which was initiated and completed by Gold Star families and members of the Illinois Patriot Guard, features the names of those who have fallen in the line of duty since 9/11. It will be on display the entire weekend.

The Veteran’s Garage features a group of veterans and patriots who are dedicated to the preservation, restoration and maintenance of historic military vehicles and equipment. They will have a variety of authentic vehicles on display throughout the week.

Operation Care Package ships supplies to thousands of service members each year, and members volunteer their efforts at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery to place donated wreaths on veterans’ graves that are provided by Wreaths Across America. And in support of Operation Deployed, Raceway Ministries will collect care packages for active and deployed military.

There are also ticket discounts available for all veterans and active-duty military members that are available on the track’s website at Paddock is also working with the state of Illinois in order to celebrate this state during its bicentennial year.

“Picture this on Sunday, July 1st,” Paddock said. “You have the opportunity to be in the infield, watching what’s going on in the garage then it’s the drivers’ procession and meeting. And then Randy Houser is going to sing a pre-race concert. And he’ll turn it over to Jim Cornelison, who’ll perform his gold standard version of the national anthem and then you’ll have a flyover, fireworks and parachute jumpers. It’s such a rush and it will stoke everyone’s’ patriotic energy and it’s just going to be a wonderful day to be a part of.

“Because this is NBC’s lead broadcast for NASCAR, they’ll pre-promote this on all of their marquee programming over the next couple of months. It’s great for Joliet and Will County, not only to have a live national audience but an international audience in 175 countries and it will be broadcast live from Joliet, Illinois, which is pretty special. Joliet oversees economic benefits and the impact that this race will have from people coming from all around to attend.”

Beside promoting what figures to become a new tradition just before the Fourth of July each year, Paddock hopes to tie the Stars and Stripes Weekend of racing with the noble cause of also helping out those who’ve sacrificed so much in order to defend our country.

“We can’t forget our veterans or take them for granted and we can’t take our American liberties and freedoms for granted,” Paddock said. “We need to be appreciative of those and to celebrate those freedoms and this is a great forum to be able to do this and to make sure that we’re showing our appreciation to our service men and women. I am honored to work in a sport that takes a lot of pride in recognizing our service personnel and our veterans.”

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