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Paralympics athlete and retired soldier to have NASCAR race named in his honor

Here is an example of how NASCAR and Crown Royal get things right. Each year, they name a Sprint Cup Series race after an individual. Last year, it was Russ Friedman, an Iraqi war vet from Huntington Station.

This year, the race will be named for Heath Calhoun, of Clarksville, Tenn.  Calhoun, 30, retired from the U.S. Army when he lost both of his legs in an explosion in Iraq.

Here's more about the race and Calhoun from a press release:

Richmond, VA, April 28, 2010 – When the 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers hit the track this weekend at Richmond International Raceway, they will all be racing to honor one man – Heath Calhoun. As the grand-prize winner of the Crown Royal “Your Name Here” contest, Calhoun was awarded naming rights to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Saturday, May 1.  The race is officially titled “Crown Royal Presents The Heath Calhoun 400.”

The Clarksville, Tenn, native was unveiled as the grand-prize winner earlier this year during a patriotic ceremony at Daytona International Speedway.  This year marked the first that Crown Royal,  focused the annual promotion solely on military service members to honor their achievements.  Calhoun and four other military members were chosen as the top finalists after nominations were received from their friends, family and fellow soldiers for their ability to demonstrate the core values of the military in performing a selfless act that made them a hero.  Heath’s winning nomination detailed his determination and ability to inspire others to live their lives to the fullest, despite their injuries.   

“The last few months have been a whirlwind,” said Calhoun.  “Since being announced the Crown Royal winner, I have competed in the Paralympics, met President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, and will soon be living out any race fan’s dream by having my own race.  This has truly been an unbelievable experience.   Thanks to Crown Royal, I will have the experience of a lifetime.  I look forward to representing all the men and women who serve our country during the race weekend.”

Calhoun, 30, retired from the US Army when he lost both of his legs in an explosion in Iraq. For his efforts on duty, he received a Purple Heart, as well as the George C. Lang Award for Courage. He works closely with the Wounded Warrior Project in an effort to help as many people as he can. Calhoun recently competed on the US Paralympics Team at the 2010 Paralympics Winter Games, where he scored an 8th-place finish in the Super-G and a 10th-place finish in the Men’s Super Combined alpine skiing events.  Calhoun was also selected by Team USA to serve as flag bearer for Opening Ceremonies. Growing up very close to Bristol Motor Speedway, Calhoun has always loved NASCAR and remembers listening to the races on the radio with his grandfather when he was young.

“We are extremely proud to have such a remarkable athlete and hero in Heath Calhoun representing Crown Royal,” said Rob Mason, senior brand manager, Crown Royal. “In addition to his personal sacrifices for our country, Heath is very deserving of having his name in lights as he embodies the character and core values that we celebrate as a brand.  We are confident that NASCAR fans at the track and at home watching the race will be taken aback by Heath’s accomplishments and his drive to make a difference.  We look forward to making Heath the king of the race and we hope to toast all the men and women that serve our country, in Victory Lane - responsibly.”

Calhoun will receive the royal treatment throughout the weekend.  His name will be incorporated into the race broadcast and has been included on all the race tickets and merchandise.  Some of his duties include serving as Grand Marshal, participating in pace-car laps, watching the race from the No. 17 pit box and delivering the trophy – emblazoned with his name – to the race winner in Victory Lane. Calhoun will be joined by his wife Tiffany and several close friends and family members. 

Prior to the race at Richmond International Raceway, America’s Premier Short Track, Crown Royal driver Matt Kenseth, along with Doug Fritz and Heath Calhoun, will participate in a private luncheon with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.  The event will take place as a special tribute to Heath, his upcoming race, as well as his service to the country and ability to make a difference despite his injury.

“It has been an honor to meet Heath as well as all the other finalists that took part in this program,” said Kenseth. “Crown Royal has given me and the team numerous opportunities to interact with race fans this season and it’s been a blast.  We look forward to this weekend’s race activities and continuing our involvement with Crown Royal throughout the season to ensure adult race fans always drink responsibly.” 



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