Several NASCAR drivers recently got a taste of what it's like to serve in the military.
Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress car and two of his crew members visited the Coast Guard Station at Wrightsville Beach, N.C.. and Kyle Larson and members of his No. 42 Chip Ganassi pit crew visited Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.
The visits come in advance of the May 26 running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and are part of Mission 600, a partnership between the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Department of Defense. Mission 600 gives drivers a first-hand look at military life in advance of the speedway's pre-race Salute to the Troops.
During his visit, Dillon had the opportunity to answer a distress call aboard a 45-foot RBM (Response Boat-Medium) and learned about rescue rope exercises.
"Those boats are unbelievable machines," said Dillon. "It's like driving a big jet ski. We had a blast seeing how smooth they are and listening to how the guys go through everything. They are very good at what they do."
While at Parris Island, Larson and his crew went down a five-story rappel tower and took on an assault course. They were also yelled at by a drill instructor while standing on the iconic yellow footprints that recruits step on to when getting off the bus to begin basic training.
"A good friend of mine is a drill instructor from California, so it was neat to see what he gets to do every day," said Larson.
Larson said wall rappelling was "awesome."
"I tried to do it as quick as I could before I got nervous," he said.
Larson also learned about Marine Sgt. Jeannette Winters, the first female American service member to die in the War on Terror. Winters perished in a plane crash in Pakistan on Jan. 9, 2002. As part of the 600 Miles of Remembrance Program, Winter's name will be displayed on Larson's car's windshield during the race.
"Being able to honor Sgt. Jeannette Winters is going to be really special," he said. "After getting to come here and see what she went through in becoming a Marine, having her name on our car in the 600 will be really special."
Dillon's car will also carry the name of a fallen American service member on its windshield during the race.
"I feel like our fallen soldiers ride along with us," he said. 'Their families become part of our racing family.
Driver Bubba Wallace visited Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. and Ryan Newman visited Fort Bragg, N.C..
Through the speedway's Patriot's Partners program, race fans or corporate sponsors can buy a ticket to the race for a member of the U.S. Armed Forces for $25. Tickets will be distributed to active duty service members and their families through the USO.
Want to get more connected to the great stories and resources Connecting Vets has to offer? Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter.