CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 8, 2007 - NASCAR Nextel Cup points leader Jeff Gordon today unveiled a new design for his No. 24 Dupont-sponsored car sporting a Department of Defense color scheme and the America Supports You logo emblazoned on its hood.
America Supports You is a Defense Department program that showcases America’s support for the men and women of the armed forces and their families.
“May is ‘Military Appreciation Month,’ and there is no better place to honor our military than at the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day, particularly when Jeff Gordon takes to the track in his new blue America Supports You car,” said Roxie Merritt, chief of Integrated Communications for the Department of Defense.
Merritt was the America Supports You representative at the unveiling ceremony. “We truly appreciate Jeff’s commitment to our troops and their families and NASCAR for amplifying the message to our servicemembers that Americans stand behind them,” she said.
The design is showcased as part of the American Heroes Memorial Day salute to the Armed Forces on May 27 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway here. Gordon and sponsor DuPont created the commemorative paint scheme for the salute.
Eight Nextel Cup drivers and two Busch drivers are sporting new looks with military themes during the Coca Cola 600 to help kick off a nationwide effort to raise funds for military families in need. The NASCAR team owners, sponsors, drivers and employees donated the space on their cars.
Participating drivers include Greg Biffle, Ward Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Shane Huffman, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Casey Mears and Jon Wood.
The number of drivers and sponsors willing to participate surprised Gordon, who headed the initiative. Advertising alone on the hoods of some of the cars can bring up to $1 million per race, said Larry Deas, manager of Dupont Motor Sports.
“These men and women fight with their lives on the line for our peace and our freedom. When you think about that, there’s not enough that you can do,” Gordon said. “It’s a no-brainer.”
Deas said his group jumped at the opportunity.
“I appreciate all (servicemembers) do,” he said. “I hope this is just a little bit of a message from Dupont to say how much we appreciate what (the troops) do as a corporation. The fact that we supply a lot of products for them that help make them safer and more likely to come back home to their loved ones is something that I’m very proud of.”
Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, Army National Guard chief, represented the Defense Department at the ceremony. He said the morale boost from the cars’ new paint jobs will be felt around the globe in the 177 countries where U.S. troops are serving.
“It sends an enormous message of the commitment of NASCAR and the genuine care that they have for our American servicemembers,” Vaughn said. “It has an impact on morale to know that there is a significant amount of the population that is strongly behind everything that (the troops are) doing and what they stand for.”
Marshall Carlson, Hendrick Motor Sports general manager said he has seen servicemembers over the years show their support to NASCAR, and his company appreciates the opportunity to express its gratitude for their service. His team runs the No. 25 National Guard car with driver Casey Meers.
“When this opportunity came up, every one of our folks jumped all over it,” he said. “We recognize the sacrifice and the hard work that all of the servicemembers give to the rest of us without any expectation of thanks. When you have the opportunity to express that gratitude to them, it’s an opportunity you don’t want to pass up.”
Gordon’s Chevrolet features Defense Department colors of medium and dark blue, gold and red. “America Supports You” tops the circular logo against a dark blue background, with “Department of Defense” lettered along the bottom. Within the circle, against a medium-blue background, is the America Supports You program logo with its red heart and reversed white stars and stripes supported by a dark blue ribbon with a reversed white dog tag. The dog tag with the America Supports You logo is the official emblem of the program.
The American Heroes Memorial Day Tribute is being supported by Nextel, which will conduct a national fundraising campaign encouraging its customers support the troops with donations to the United Service Organizations.
The American Heroes program hopes to raise more than $1 million for American military families in need through the effort.
“The USO is proud to be the beneficiary of the American Heroes campaign,” said Edward A. Powee, USO president and chief executive officer, in a release to the media. “We thank Speedway Motorsports, Nextel, the NASCAR community and its fans for their support of our men and women in uniform and the USO.”
Four organizations are promoting the American Heroes Memorial Day Tribute and fundraising efforts: the USO, America Supports You, Speedway Children’s Charities, and the Special Operations Hero Fund.
The Speedway Children’s Charities was founded in 1982 and provides medical, educational and social services to underprivileged children. In 2006, they awarded more than $2.8 million to more than 470 organizations, according to a news release. The Special Operations Hero Fund provides scholarships and educational grants to children of special operations personnel killed in training or combat.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc., or NASCAR, began in 1948. It is the top U.S. spectator sport holding 17 of the top 20 attended sporting events in the U.S., and is the No. 2 rated regular season sport on network television with broadcasts in 150 countries and has 75 million fans. More Fortune 500 companies participate in NASCAR than any other sport, according to the NASCAR web site. Gordon is a four-time series champion.