Honor and Remember
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (May 25, 2016) – The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend has long been a special day for racing enthusiasts around the world. Considered by many as the “Greatest Day in Motorsports,” it starts with the Grand Prix of Monaco, where Formula 1 drivers navigate through the streets of Monte Carlo. That’s followed by the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the day closes with the Coca-Cola 600, the longest race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Racing on Memorial Day weekend is nothing new for Danica Patrick as she’s done it at the professional level for many years. For seven years, Patrick competed in the 500-mile race at Indianapolis, and on Sunday Patrick will make her fifth start in the Coca-Cola 600.
While Sunday is a special day in the motorsports world, in Charlotte the focus will instead be on those service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our country and our freedom. For the second consecutive year, the NASCAR community will come together to honor fallen U.S. Armed Forces members with “600 Miles of Remembrance” in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.
As part of that tribute, this weekend the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is honoring Lance Corporal Benito Ramirez, who died May 21, 2006 in the Anbar Province of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Ramirez’s name will be featured in place of Patrick’s on the windshield header of the team’s car.
Ramirez, a native of Edinburg, Texas, joined the Marines in December 2002. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton, California, and deployed with the Darkhorse battalion. After two tours in Iraq, the 21-year-old soldier volunteered for a third. During that deployment, he died from wounds sustained during combat operations. Ramirez has personal ties to the No. 10 team as he served in the same battalion as Jon Wesson, vice president of operations for Nature’s Bakery. In addition to featuring his name on the car, Ramirez’s parents Felipe and Maria are scheduled to attend Sunday’s race.
This Memorial Day weekend, the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet will also feature a special camouflage paint scheme in honor of the men and women who have died in military service for the United States.
Entering Sunday’s race, Patrick’s career-best finish in the Coca-Cola 600 was a 22nd-place result she earned in 2015. As they look to honor Ramirez, both Patrick and the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet team hope to significantly improve on that result when they return to the track this weekend.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Your No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet will feature a special paint scheme in honor of all the soldiers who’ve died in military service for the United States this weekend. Talk about that.
“I think it’s very fitting that Nature’s Bakery decided to go with a special camouflage scheme on Memorial Day weekend to pay tribute to the men and women who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. They are true heroes. We’re also honoring a 21-year-old Marine, Lance Corporal Benito Ramirez, who was killed in combat in 2006. He has direct ties to the Nature’s Bakery family, so I know it means a lot to everyone at Nature’s Bakery to have him featured on the car. And I know I speak for everyone on the No. 10 team when I say it is an honor to have his name on the car, as well.”
What are your overall thoughts about racing at Charlotte?
“I like Charlotte. It’s really nice for the crews because it’s a home race for them. They get to sleep in their own bed and a lot of their family and friends are there. So you want to give them a good performance. It’s fun for me at Charlotte because a lot of the crews have young kids, so it’s fun to meet them and see them around the hauler during the race weekend. It’s just a bit of a different experience than a lot of the tracks we go to.”
Looking at Memorial Day, what’s that day like for you as you prepare for the Coca-Cola 600?
“For race day, I like to carve out as much time as I can to watch the Indy 500. It’s an amazing event. I can still put myself there and feel it when I watch the race. I like to watch and see how the drivers I know are doing. It’s a great race. It’s just part of tradition. I do have to do meet-and-greets and stuff like that on race day, but I usually try to schedule them early or for the middle of the race so I can watch the end, for sure.”
How challenging is the Coca-Cola 600?
“A lot is made about the Coca-Cola 600 being another 100 miles longer and it being a long race. We have a lot of races that are already 500 miles long and we have a lot of races that go from day to night, so it’s really not unfamiliar territory. It can make a bad day worse if the race is even longer. If the car is good, then the day is easy. It never feels all that long and, hopefully, it’s not super-hot out. Other than that, it’s just another race, honestly. But, it is a big event that you want to do well at.”
This Sunday will mark the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. Do you feel like you have a place in Indy 500 history?
“I mean, I do because I am the highest-finishing female. When I think of the drivers who have raced in the Indy 500, I have a pretty decent average, other than when (Ryan) Briscoe took me out on pit lane coming out of the last pit stop. Other than that, I think I had all top-10s.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine