BROOKLYN, Mich. — Joel Correll and son Jarrett were looking forward to a special trip to MIS on Saturday but had no idea what was in store.
After a VIP tour of the track, the duo was invited to the media center, where Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola and Richard Petty himself gave them a real surprise.
Each was given a No. 43 Eckrich Ford team shirt and 15-year-old Jarrett, who lives with cystic fibrosis, learned Almirola will carry his and his dad’s names on his car in Sunday’s Father’s Day Sprint Cup race.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been to a race,” Jarrett said. “I don’t think I’m going to forget this.”
Nor will his father, a Marine Corps veteran who traveled with his son from Findlay, Ohio.
“We pretty much expected to come to the track and get a little bit of special treatment,” he said, “but not this. This is unbelievable.”
The visit was arranged as part of Operation Inspiration, a campaign begun earlier this year by Eckrich and Operation Homefront, a national organization that assists needy veterans and their families. The partnership seeks to “help honor, thank and support the military families who inspire their fellow Americans,” Richard Petty Motorsports said in a statement.
The racing team also will be treating Jarrett and his parents to a trip to Victory Junction, an outdoors camp in Randleman, N.C., for children with terminal or chronic illnesses. It will be the teen’s fourth visit.
“It’s great,” Jarrett said. “The counselors always make sure we have fun there.”