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Dustin Off The Next Race: Coca-Cola 600

60 years of action, honor, and remembrance come full circle on Sunday.

When this weekend comes around every year, so many emotions come about from all perspectives.  Yes, it is the greatest day all season in motorsports.  It’s not just NASCAR, but all the top racing series have some of, if not the, biggest race of the season in the course of 24 hours.

In the course of one day, fans get to watch Formula 1 hit the streets of Monaco, a race that is so challenging because of the narrow streets but the scenery is just perfection.  Then, it’s the race of the day.  Over a century old, unexpected moments, historic celebrations, it is the one race that even if not followed on a regular basis is the one that we watch.  Indianapolis means at the end of the day, someone is taking a gulp of milk.

The day culminates with endurance, the big marathon of action that NASCAR has every year on the same weekend.

Charlotte has seen this race become such a celebration, but for engine builders and engineers, trying to make sure a car can go 500 miles at any point in the year is hard enough.  For one weekend, all those builders have to somehow ensure a car, engine, transmission, every nut and bolt can make it even longer.  This race, 600 miles, is a test of stamina for all drivers, and then the teams are doing more pit stops than they do at any race during the season.  It might not be the biggest race of the year, but this is still a crown jewel on the year.  Many drivers don’t have a win at this race, some big names that never got to make it to victory lane like Earnhardt Jr, and new hall of fame inductee, Tony Stewart.

I have been to this race twice, and both races were different as far as who won, and also how they got there.  This race is certainly one that many must get to, just to have the experience, even if it becomes a true all-day affair.

At the same time, the one thing to remember when it comes to this race, and in particular this weekend, the racing is secondary on everyone’s mind.  Racing, cookouts, and being with those we care about…it’s only a small part of what the weekend means.  What’s scary is that not everyone really understands what the Memorial Day weekend is meant to honor.

Some say all the military, but that’s not exactly right.  Some say veterans, but they have their own designated holiday, despite the fact they should be honored always.  This holiday is about those that served this country, but aren’t celebrating with us.  A total of 40 names are placed on the cars this weekend of soldiers that aren’t here to experience the freedoms this country has earned.

Memorial Day Weekend means paying homage to those soldiers, who went into battle to ensure freedom in our lives, but lost theirs in the process.

It’s why when we watch Indianapolis and Charlotte, that the pre-race ceremonies are different.  Yes, we hear the invocation, but we then hear bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” with such pride and honor.  We then stand at attention, as we see a 21-gun salute, with the “Ready, aim, fire” clear as day.

And then, tears come out, as one lone trumpet player stands in front of a microphone, and plays “Taps” with everyone silent as if they were fast asleep.

It’s the only time that I have been at a race, as a fan or as a member of the media, that I have seen tears come out and they be genuine.  I have seen my own father come to tears when this race happens, even as tough as he is as a human being, he has cried.  My grandfather, may he rest in peace, was a veteran from the second World War, and he was proud of his time that he spent serving the United States.

I get emotional every time this race comes about, because it has such a major meaning.

Every year, something makes me proud to be here for this race, to enjoy it, love it, and carry the American colors with pride.  God bless the USA, because we are damn proud of our ragged, old, flag.

About Dustin Parks

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