CONCORD, N.C. – This Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series will honor the spirit of Memorial Day weekend by taking on “600 Miles of Remembrance.”
Every car entered into Sunday’s 600-mile race will carry the name of a fallen service member on its windshield.
That certainly includes all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers, each of whom will pilot a unique patriotic paint scheme.
“This race is always special to us to honor the men and women who serve and have served our country,” Jimmie Johnson said.
Chase Elliott’s No. 9 car will bear the name of U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. John Chester Robertson on its windshield. Robertson was born Nov. 13, 1940. Upon enlisting, he served during Vietnam with the 3rd Marine Division, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, G Company as a rifleman. Robertson passed away on March 22, 1966, around South Vietnam from small arms fire. Robertson is memorialized at Edgewater New Smyrna Cemetery in Edgewater, Florida, and honored on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, panel 6E, line 40.
William Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet will feature Maj. Michael Donahue’s name atop the windshield. Donahue, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, is a respected Liberty alumnus and was an assistant professor of military science for Liberty's Army ROTC program from August 2008 to July 2010, during which time he completed his master's degree in education and his Ed.D. Donahue served three combat tours of duty in the U.S. Army in which he was stationed in South Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. On Sept. 16, 2014, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Donahue's life was taken when a Taliban suicide bomber drove a vehicle laced with explosives into a foreign military convoy on the base.
Donahue's awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Purple Heart, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, the Iraq Campaign Medal with one campaign star, the Korean Defense Service Medal, the Combat Action Badge and the Senior Parachutist Badge.
Liberty University and the No. 24 team will also recognize another member of the United States Armed Forces – Dr. Charlie Davidson – by putting his name over the driver’s-side door in place of Byron’s. Davidson was a beloved Liberty faculty member who served in the chaplaincy department and made an incredible impact on the faculty, staff, and students of Liberty for many years. Lt. Col. Davidson was the first award recipient for George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award to represent the U.S. Air Force. He was the first Air Force chaplain to set foot on the soil of Baghdad, Iraq, and the first Air Force chaplain to be awarded the Bronze Star Medal for bravery and valor under hostile fire and combat conditions in Operation Iraqi Freedom on Nov. 7, 2003.
His numerous awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Joint Service Outstanding Unit Award, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with three oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, and the Humanitarian Service Medal. Davidson also served on the board of directors at Bristol Raceway Ministries in Bristol, Tennessee.
“It’s an honor to have Maj. Donahue and Lt. Col. Davidson on the car this weekend,” Byron said. “It’s a great-looking car and should be a lot of fun.”
Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet will carry the name of Staff Sgt. Francis G. “Frankie” Phillips IV, who was killed in action while serving in the United States Army in the Maiwand region of Afghanistan on May 4, 2013. Phillips’ mother, Cherie, is an employee of the Auburn, New York, Lowe’s Home Improvement store and she was able to select the paint scheme that will honor her son. Phillips was killed, along with four other soldiers, when a bomb exploded near their armored vehicle, and was laid to rest with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on May 20, 2013. Phillips, lovingly referred to as “Frankie,” was awarded the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Members of Phillips’ family, including his mother, will be in attendance at the race event this weekend.
“Staff Sgt. Frankie Phillips, we thank you for your service to our country,” Johnson said. “And to his mother, Cherie, I couldn’t be more honored to drive the No. 48 with Frankie’s name on the car.”
Alex Bowman will carry the name of Capt. Nick Rozanski on the front windshield of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend. Rozanski, a native of Dublin, Ohio, and a graduate of Ohio State University, was a member of the Ohio Army National Guard’s 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He was deployed in 2004 to Kosovo, in 2007 to Kuwait/Iraq and again in 2012 to Afghanistan, his final deployment. Rozanski died on April 4, 2012 due to combat injuries sustained in Afghanistan.
Jennifer Rozanski, his widow, worked at Nationwide in the staff sales organization during the time of his passing. In 2012, Jennifer started the Nick Rozanski Memorial Foundation to benefit students and families within the local Dublin community through scholarships and other charitable foundations. She and the couple's two daughters will be guests of Nationwide and Hendrick Motorsports at this weekend’s event in Charlotte.
“The paint scheme this weekend is really special,” Bowman said. “Everything we do for veterans is really special around the 600 and everything Nationwide does. It’s a really cool thing to be a part of. We are honoring Capt. Rozanski with his name on the windshield, and it is such an honor to carry his name on our Camaro ZL1 this weekend.”