CONCORD, N.C. – The Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway is always special, and this year’s edition was no different.
As part of NASCAR’s 600 Miles of Remembrance program, the NASCAR Cup Series drivers honored United States Armed Forces members who have fallen in service for their country.
For Jimmie Johnson, his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS carried the name of fallen Army Paratrooper SPC Michael Rodriguez.
“Two weeks ago, I had a chance to go down to Ft. Bragg and meet Mr. Rodriguez’s family and also the unit that he was a part of, a lot of his friends and family members and hear some amazing stories about him,” Johnson said.
The stories stuck with the driver, and on race day he had the honor of carrying Rodriguez’s dog tags.
Once Johnson learned that Rodriguez made a habit of wearing red shoes, No. 48 team crew chief Chad Knaus determined that he would don red shoes for the race along with Rodriguez’s family in attendance for the event.
“It is always and honor to carry a fallen solider on the car,” Johnson said, “but to have such an amazing back story, such a relationship with his family and just these great stories to help me learn more about him and understand more about him will make this weekend all the more special.”
"We've really enjoyed having them here with us," Knaus added.
One more special feature of the weekend for the No. 48 team came from Lowe’s, courtesy of a generous donation.
“Lowe’s is also going to give 1,000 tickets away to the race to men and women that serve our country,” Johnson explained. “So, that is something very cool that they are doing.”