Topics: Mountain Dew Southern 500
Walter T. Ham IV, Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs
September 4, 2003
DARLINGTON, S.C. (NNS) -- “Gentlemen, start your engines!” shouted Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Vern Clark to start NASCAR’s final Labor Day Weekend race in Darlington, S.C.
The CNO spoke these familiar words Aug. 31 to the delight of NASCAR fans, while serving as Grand Marshal during the nationally televised Winston Cup Series Mountain Dew Southern 500. Clark said he enjoyed the opportunity to represent Sailors at such a high-visibility event.
“It’s such a high honor for me to be here today, representing 470,000 active and Reserve Sailors, and also all of those thousands of men and women in the entire military representing you around the world, on the point, doing the nation’s business,” the CNO said.
Clark also watched the FitzBradshaw Racing team pit crew in action as the No. 14 Navy car, driven by Casey Atwood, raced to an impressive top 10 finish during the Aug. 30 Busch Series race, and raced a simulator around the Darlington Raceway.
“It’s been great to be down here and meet the crew – see a dedicated, spirited group of individuals who are committed to winning,” the CNO said. “And they have the same kind of feeling about their business as we do about ours.”
Atwood picked up 134 points with his tenth place finish, giving him a total of 736 points for his limited 2003 Busch Series season. After only seven races, Atwood is 40th in the Busch Series driver standings.
Prior to the race, Atwood was asked whether he was under added pressure to perform with the CNO at the track.
“The way I see it is Adm. Clark is a big NASCAR fan, so he’s watching us every weekend no matter where he is. I want a top-ten so I can see a smile on his face after the race,” Atwood said, who got exactly that.
The Navy car will race again Sept. 5 at the Funai 250 in Richmond, Va. The race will be televised on TNT starting at 8 p.m.
On Busch Series tracks around the country and on the front lines in the Navy’s battle for people, the Navy “Accelerate Your Life” car serves as a retention and recruiting vehicle.
“Navy has linked up with NASCAR, because this is the number two growing sport in the nation,” Clark said. “It reaches a market where young people exist. Those are the young people that we want to reach out and touch, so that they can be a part of the Navy tomorrow.
For related news, visit the Chief of Naval Operations Navy NewsStand page at http://www.news.navy.mil/local/cno/. For more on the CNO, go to www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/cno/.
(The Naval Media Center contributed to this article.)