Sept. 13 , 2010

Air Guard 400 closes regular season in Richmond

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen        
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — The Richmond International Raceway was the backdrop for the Air National Guard-sponsored NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Air Guard 400 Sept. 11, where Denny Hamlin took home the trophy for the second year in a row in the last race before the "Chase for the Cup."


Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt III presents the Air Guard 400 trophy to Denny Hamlin at the Air Guard 400 at Richmond International Raceway Sept. 11 following Hamlin's victory. The race marks the second year in a row Hamlin has won the last race before the "Chase for the Cup," in Richmond. (Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

The 400-lap race determined the top 12 drivers of the season now poised to chase down the Sprint Cup Championship, and also honored those who lost their lives during the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, while highlighting the Air National Guard during the pre-race ceremonies.

“I don’t think there is anybody in this country that will ever forget where they were at and what the experience was like on 9/11,” said Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 National Guard-sponsored car. “[The race] is a way for us to really honor those that were lost and all those that have sacrificed since then for the peace and the freedom that we have.”

“I’m really thrilled and honored to be able to carry the National Guard on board and represent the military on 9/11 because they played a very important role in what’s gone on since.”

The Air Guard backed the race in Richmond to help promote awareness about the career opportunities available in the Air National Guard and the capabilities of the Air Guard to the civilian population, according to Air Force Master Sgt. Matt Leas. By supporting the race, the Air Guard was able to reach more than 95,000 NASCAR fans in attendance and millions more who watched the race, which was aired on two major networks, live from their televisions.

“The Air Guard has about a one percent awareness rating across the nation,” said Leas. “That means that 99 percent of Americans don’t know about the opportunities that are available in their communities. This is one way to get that message out, and we’re proud to have it there, and we’re proud to see it.”


The pit crew for the Air Guard sponsored #26 car driven by Jeff Green checks into pit road for a tire change during the Air Guard 400 Sept. 11. The race was sponsored by the Air Guard to help bolster awareness of the Air Guard among NASCAR fans. (Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

Not only did the Air Guard sponsor the race, but they also sponsored the #26 car driven by Jeff Green and owned by Latitude 43 Motorsports. The National Guard had three sponsored cars in the race including the #26 car. The Guard also sponsored the #88 car driven by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and the #24 car driven by Gordon

The director of the Air National Guard, Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt III, and the command chief of the Air National Guard, Command Chief Master Sgt. Chris Muncy, were given the opportunity to hold two honorary positions before and during the race, grand marshal and honorary starter, respectively.

Serving as the grand marshal, Wyatt had the unique task of alerting the drivers to start their engines and presenting Hamlin the trophy in Victory Lane, while Muncy, as the honorary starter, signaled the start of the race by waving the green flag from a crow’s nest suspended over the start/finish line.

“I have a son and a son-in-law that are really interested in NASCAR, and they go down to Texas Motor Speedway occasionally, and this is the first race I’ve attended in person,” said Wyatt.


Four F-22 Raptor fighter Jets from the 192d Fighter Squadron soar over Richmond International Raceway Sept. 11. The jets flew over the venue following the final notes of the national anthem before the Air Guard 400. (Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

The Virginia Guard provided 45 Airmen from the 192d Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, and the Virginia Beach-based 203d RED HORSE to stand with the drivers and their cars before the start of the race while four F-22 Raptor fighter jets flown by the 149th Fighter Squadron performed a flyover following the national anthem.

The flyover by the F-22 Raptors marked the first time the Virginia Air Guard has flown a Raptor formation with over 2,000 cumulative flight hours experience on the air frame between the four pilots, according to Lt. Col. David R. Nardi, squadron commander.

“I walked around and visited with some of the Airmen here,” Wyatt said. “I think they felt a little bit of pride in the fact that we are sponsoring a race, and that we have a car in it.”

The Guard also provided five Humvees, which were driven by Soldiers from the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment. The Soldiers drove the top five racecar drivers from the main stage to their racecars.

The Air Guard allows Americans to serve part-time providing flexibility to live life on their terms while serving their community, their state and country with honor and pride. With more than 140 units in the United States, Air Guard members can serve where they live. Serving in the Air Guard helps Americans earn money for college, receive world-class training for a high-tech world and gain the discipline and confidence to be successful in life.

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