CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA – OCTOBER 11: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Next Gen car and crew chief Travis Mack talk in the garage during the NASCAR Cup Series test at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 11, 2021 in Concord , North Carolina . (Photo by Bob Leverone/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Coca-Cola Racing Family driver Daniel Suarez may be chasing his first NASCAR Cup Series win this season, but on Tuesday he swapped driving gloves for a life jacket as part of the Mission 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway. The #99 Trackhouse Racing machine rider joined his crew chief, Travis Mack, at US Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach for a day of hands-on training ahead of the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend in America’s Home for Racing.
Suarez and Mack toured the station, met with crew from the Wrightsville Beach Coast Guard Station tasked with patrolling and protecting North Carolina’s coastal waters, and even boarded one of the RBM ships (Response Boat – Medium) 45 feet from the station to simulate a water rescue. Suarez threw a tow line to a 29ft RB-S II (Responder Boat – Small) that was ‘stranded’ in shallow water and needed to be hauled back into the channel.
The NASCAR teammates also assembled a portable dewatering pump designed to remove fluids from an engine room that takes on water. Suarez drove the 45-foot RBM as part of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Mission 600 campaign, a program designed to highlight the mission capabilities of our American service men and women and draw comparisons to NASCAR drivers where common themes exist between teamwork, execution and equipment. .
“I have a lot of respect for these guys,” Suarez said. “The routine they have and everything they do for people is very special in how they keep people safe. (Driving a boat) was quite different from a car. It was much faster when going in reverse (instead of) going forward. These boats are so strong. There’s plenty of power with two diesel engines. I was able to try them out, which was right in my wheelhouse. It was a good time and I liked it. »
Senior Chief Boatswain Jason Miller, the officer in charge of Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach, enjoyed the visit to Mission 600 and the opportunity to put Coast Guard responsibilities on display for a single audience.
“It’s a good thing to have this focus on the Coast Guard and to be presented like that, showing people what we do on a daily basis,” Miller said. “It was really good to bring Danny in and show him an idea of what we do and give him an idea of a mission.”
While Mack is used to sitting at the top of the pit and making the decisions for Suarez on race weekends, he took on a new role during Tuesday’s visit: a passenger aboard a boat that Suarez was driving.
“I kept my hand on the railing just to be sure, because he started doing some aggressive maneuvers, but that was really cool,” Mack said. “It was a great experience to see the ranks of the military and how they conduct each operation. I learned a lot about the Coast Guard, the waters it has to patrol and the amount of time and sacrifice it has to make to make it amazing.
“Hopefully we can take something from that day and apply it to our racing team and make it better. It’s really cool that we cross paths with the military and get to have these experiences and see how the Coast Guard works.
Suarez joins fellow Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon and Joey Logano to conduct virtual and in-person tours with various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces ahead of the Coca-Cola 600’s 63rd Memorial Day weekend. Kurt Busch and Tyler Reddick are also expected to participate in Mission 600 this year.
“I’m very happy to be here and I’m grateful for everything the men and women (on duty) do for us,” Suarez said. “I’m happy to be able to recognize them and be part of the Coca-Cola 600. It’s such an amazing race and it means a lot.”
— Charlotte Motor Speedway —