One of the unique aspects of my job as a racing driver is the opportunity to meet new individuals. Every season I try to sign as many autographs as possible and listen to as many fan stories as possible. Some of their stories are interesting, such as ancient racing legends or how far they have come in a race, while others are bizarre. However, some pull at your heartstrings. I appreciate the conversations that arise from each interaction, but one topic consistently catches my attention.
“Thank you for celebrating the memory of my brother in Atlanta,” says the narrator.
“Wow, seeing my grandfather’s name on your car was pretty cool.”
I always grin when I hear these lines because I know they refer to our custom Tribute2Veterans Autotrader vehicle.
It never gets tired of hearing from fans about their friends, family members, and heroes who have been honored on my number 2 Autotrader Ford for the past two years. Knowing how much people appreciate the chance to see those familiar faces on board my car gives me a great feeling.
Some of you may remember that the special Tribute2Veterans design debuted this year in Atlanta. The car has over 200 names of military personnel, all of whom have been submitted by enthusiasts. Each of these fans generously donated to the Checkered Flag Foundation to help raise our soldiers, and I will be eternally grateful.
When I went back to Atlanta, I remember that I felt under the weather all weekend of the competition and was a little worried about how we could compete with the new package of rules in place. I honestly do not think I could have predicted the result. But there were times when I thought about how the Tribute 2 Veterans weekend was about something bigger than me – it was about the warriors who rode with me on No. 2. Is it a coincidence that we ended up on Victory Lane on that very day?
Many of you are aware of my distinctive patriotic burnout, and it took on a whole new meaning that weekend in Atlanta. It was great to get our first win of the season, but knowing those names were on the car made it much better. It is a memory I will cherish forever.
Paige and I are excited that our Checkered Flag Foundation will again be able to work with Autotrader to revive the Tribute2Veterans program. I think it’s part of my duty as a racing driver to give back, and there is no better way to do that than to support those who selflessly sacrifice their lives for us.
Visit the foundation’s website to nominate a service member to be honored on my car by 2020. Each grant will receive a personal certificate and an anniversary poster of the No. 2 Autotrader Ford Mustang with the names of the veterans on it. I hope to see many of these at future signing sessions to continue to have some of my favorite conversations.