Kyle Larson had a Monday like no other at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver continued Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Mission 600 – a series of interactive, regional military base visits in conjunction with the Department of Defense – by descending a five-story rappel tower, taking on an assault course and standing at attention at the iconic yellow footsteps amid orders from a drill instructor.
Larson’s day-in-the-life experience came as part of Charlotte’s patriotic preview of its Memorial Day weekend Salute to the Troops prior to the 60th running of the Coca-Cola 600 on May 26. Joining Larson in his quest to experience Marine Corps recruit training were Philip Foster and Michael Roberts from Larson’s No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing crew, as well as FOX NASCAR studio host Shannon Spake and Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter.
On the heels of a wild, end-over-end crash at Talladega on Sunday, Larson went all-in on the unique set of challenges before him. Larson also met with Marines and took in the atmosphere surrounding Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, which has trained Marines since 1915.
“Everything was very new to me and a really cool experience,” Larson said. “A good friend of mine from high school is a drill instructor in California, so it was neat to see what he gets to do every day. Going down the (rappel) wall was awesome. I tried to do it as quick as I could before I got nervous. The whole experience was cool. Seeing the respect everyone has here for one another – they’re a whole big team, similar to us. I can’t say thanks enough for what they do for Americans as well as for showing us such great hospitality.”
Additionally, Larson and Walter presented Brig. Gen. James Glynn with U.S. Marine Corps and Charlotte Motor Speedway Mission 600 flags following their recruit training experience.
“(Larson) got a little bit of a sense for what these 13 weeks are like, but it’s really the beginning of a four-year or longer journey for our men and women,” Glynn said. “The thing we have in common is being part of a team and being part of a winning team. We appreciate the effort that Charlotte Motor Speedway and NASCAR have put into recognizing our Marines and their families.”
Larson also learned the story of Marine Sgt. Jeanette Winters, who attended Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island for recruit training in 1997. Sgt. Winters perished on Jan. 9, 2002, in a plane crash in Pakistan. She became the first female member of the U.S. military to be killed in the War on Terror. As part of the 600 Miles of Remembrance program, Larson’s car will carry Sgt. Winters’ name on its windshield during the Coca-Cola 600.
“The Coca-Cola 600 is an event that we all look forward to in part because we get to honor our military,” Larson said. “Being able to honor Sgt. Jeanette Winters is going to be really special. After coming here and getting to see what she went through in becoming a Marine, having her name on our car in the 600 will be very special.”
Along with Mission 600’s thrilling build-up to the Coca-Cola 600, thousands of troops will join fans in the race-day festivities, which will include static military displays and interactive showcases in the Fan Zone. Additionally, 600 troops comprised of members from all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces will be on the frontstretch during pre-race activities.
Mission 600 kicks off the festivities, with Austin Dillon scheduled to visit U.S. Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach on Tuesday.
Through the speedway’s “Patriot Partners” program, race fans or corporate customers can buy a ticket for a member of the U.S. Armed Forces for just $25. Tickets will be distributed to active-duty personnel and their families through the USO.