by Matt Lincoln
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - One of five American heroes will have their name grace the title of the April race at Richmond. The finalists of the contest were announced Tuesday.
The makers of Crown Royal Canadian whisky ask fans to visit NASCAR.com now until February 11th to decide which of five American heroes will receive naming rights to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday, April 30th, 2011.
All five finalists from various branches of the military have been selected to receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Daytona to attend a special performance where country music star Rodney Atkins will unveil the grand-prize winner. The finalists, in no specific order, are:
- Richard Coffland, U.S. Army & Army National Guard (retired), Grand Coulee, WA
- Matthew Hansen, U.S. Marine Corps, San Marcos, CA
- Casey Traxler, U.S. Army (retired), Mooresville, NC
- Cindy Shelton, U.S. Air Force (retired), San Antonio, TX
- Mark Brown, Knob Noster, MO
Country music star Rodney Atkins will use his award-winning vocals to unveil the winner of the Crown Royal "Your Name Here" 400 contest by incorporating the winner's name into one of his songs. Those in attendance of the event could hear the country crooner sing "It's a welcome home parade for Richard Coffland," or "Cindy Shelton grew up down by the railroad tracks," it will be a surprise until the performance.
The finalists were selected from nominations submitted by friends, family and fellow comrades that illustrated what makes them a hero. Their stories include a female trailblazer in the Air Force's information technology field, a twin who continues to serve even after his other half was killed in the line of duty, and a service member who selflessly protected members of his unit when their base was under attack. Here is some background for each finalisty, courtesy of www.NASCAR.com/CrownRoyal. You can cast your vote there, voting ends Friday, February 11th.
Mark Brown - As a faithful veteran of the Armed Services, Mark Brown, 40, spends his days at his Missouri duty station in Health Services Administration. Throughout his 13-year career, Brown has been deployed four times, including two tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Nominated by his wife for his dedicated service to his country, on the home front Brown served his fellow airmen by leading a designated driver program while stationed in Little Rock. Brown considers himself a NASCAR aficionado and in addition to watching the races each weekend, has attended events at Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway. The father of three finds it hard to believe he is a finalist, and is overwhelmed by the thought that one of NASCAR's biggest stars could take the checkered flag for the "Mark Brown 400."
Casey Traxler - Casey Traxler, 29, of Mooresville, N.C., joined the United States Army upon graduating high school and spent his next six years in service. Nominated by his girlfriend, the Minnesota native deployed four times during active duty, spending time in Iraq and Afghanistan. Traxler sustained significant injuries when his base went under enemy attack, and has since gone through more than a dozen surgeries to repair the damage. For his efforts, the former Legends Cars racer received a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star Medal and had a road at his former base in Iraq named in his honor. Now retired from the Army, Traxler lives and breathes NASCAR, making his way to numerous races as a fan and as an employee in the motorsports radio communication industry. A huge country music fan, Traxler is overwhelmed by the thought of country star Rodney Atkins including his name in a song at Daytona and Richmond and looks forward to honoring all military members if he wins the grand-prize.
Richard Coffland - Richard Coffland, 42, of Grand Coulee, Wash., served more than 21 years in the United States Army and Army National Guard before retiring in 2007. Nominated by his wife for his commitment to protecting his country during a time of personal turmoil, Coffland deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom just after the passing of his first wife, leaving his daughter behind. Upon his return home, Coffland was one of the first National Guard responders to Hurricane Katrina and continues his desire to serve his community as a volunteer firefighter in addition to his fulltime job with the United States Bureau of Reclamation and his responsibilities at the family cattle ranch. Through his mother's influence, Coffland became an avid NASCAR fan and has made his way to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Excited about the opportunity to honor all servicemen and servicewoman if he takes home the grand-prize, the veteran is overjoyed to head to the Daytona 500 and sees it as a prize in itself.
Matthew Hansen - Matthew Hansen, 26, of San Marcos, Calif., is a full-time member of the United States Marine Corps. SSgt Hansen joined the Marines with his identical twin brother Daniel after graduating high school. Both brothers excelled in their training, with Daniel being handpicked to guard former President George W. Bush at Camp David in 2004 and later Lt. Gen. Richard Zilmer in Iraq. While supporting combat operations in the Farah province of Afghanistan, Daniel was killed by a roadside bomb. Matthew, who has deployed three times to Iraq, was nominated by his Godmother for continuing to serve with amazing courage and faith after losing his brother and best friend. A NASCAR newbie, Matthew is excited to attend his first NASCAR race in Daytona, and should he win the grand-prize, the April 30th race at Richmond International Raceway will be called the "Hansen Brothers 400," to show honor to his fallen twin.
Cindy Shelton - Cindy Shelton, 55, of San Antonio, Texas, joined the Air Force after high school and served active duty for more than 20 years before retiring as a highly decorated E8. A Vietnam era and Gulf War veteran, Shelton was nominated by her husband for being a trailblazer for women in the Air Force as one of the first female communication electronic technicians. She continues to dedicate her life to the military through her IT work with the Air Force Services Agency, and as a mother of an adult with Autism, spends countless hours volunteering for organizations that help adults with the disorder and their families. Although she considers herself a new fan of NASCAR, Shelton has made her way to Texas Motor Speedway a half dozen times and proudly displays memorabilia of her favorite driver on her desk at work. If she receives the grand prize, Shelton most looks forward to seeing the race from a new perspective - behind pit road.
The winner will be announced from Daytona on February 18th. In addition to Rodney Atkins, NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth and representatives from Crown Royal and Richmond International Raceway will be in attendance.
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