CONCORD, N.C. -- This Memorial Day weekend, the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers will honor those who gave the ultimate price as members of the U.S. military.
For the "600 Miles of Remembrance" on Sunday, Chase Elliott, William Byron, Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman each will have the name of a fallen service member on the windshields of their cars along with patriotic paint schemes.
“Racing on Memorial Day weekend is always special," Byron said. "It’s a time for us to try do something small to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so we can continue to do what we love."
Chase Elliott's Chevrolet Camaro ZLE 1LE will bear the name of Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Stephen “Matt” Mills, who died in Afghanistan on Aug. 6, 2011. His helicopter was shot down and he was one of 30 U.S. service members killed, including his 22-person SEAL Team 6 troop.
From Arlington, Texas, Mills graduated from the Navy in January 1997 and graduated from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 2001. He had been deployed multiple times before his death.
"It’s great to be a small part of what NASCAR does around Memorial Day. The sport has done a great job recognizing the real heroes," Elliott said. "The very least we can do is show appreciation for all the men and women who are serving our country. We can never say thank you to them enough. I look forward to continuing the tradition this weekend."
Byron's No. 24 car will honor Army Sgt. Robert Billings and World War II veteran George Rogers. Billings was serving his second deployment in Afghanistan when his unit was ambushed on Oct. 13, 2012. Like Byron, Billings has ties to Liberty University and was enrolled online to get his criminal justice degree.
Rogers passed away at age 100 in August 2019. He earned the Purple Heart and Prisoner of War medals for his service in World War II after he survived the Bataan Death March while serving in the Philippines. Rogers served as an ambassador for Liberty for 25 years.
"I’m able to honor those who share connections to Liberty University," Byron said. "It gives me even more motivation and satisfaction to be able to run well, and I hope I’m able to make them proud again on Sunday."
Johnson's No. 48 Ally will pay respects to Army Cpl. Patrick Deans. From Winter Garden, Florida, Deans was with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
He was killed in action in Afghanistan on Dec. 12, 2010, two days before his 23rd birthday. Afterward, he was honored with the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, Iraq Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
"Both my grandfathers served, and my brother-in-law served," Johnson said. "To have Cpl. Deans on my car and run a special paint scheme is a big honor for me to recognize the individual and all those who have lost a loved one."
Alex Bowman will have U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Scott. W. Brunkhorst's name across the windshield of his No. 88 Chevrolet. Brunkhorst died in Afghanistan on March 30, 2010, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an IED.
A native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Brunkhorst was 25 at the time of his death.
"It is always special honoring the men and women in the Armed Forces," Bowman said. "It will be an honor having (Brunkhorst) on board and hopefully we can put the car in victory lane for his family and friends.”
Take a look at at all four paint schemes that will run this weekend here.