Select wounded veterans around the country will have the chance to suit up and take a couple of laps around the race track with Checkered Flag Foundation president Brad Keselowski as a part of CFF's 2011 Race to Recovery program.
CFF is partnering with Veterans Administration hospitals around the country to identify and reward service men and women wounded in the line of duty who are working the hardest to overcome the physical adversity they face daily.
The program that debuts at Keselowski's home track of Michigan International Speedway in June. Follow-on stops include Bristol Motor Speedway in August; Richmond International Raceway in September; and Talladega Superspeedway in October.
Selectees will have the opportunity to come to the track for a three-day VIP race experience capped off with a ride-along with Keselowski in a specially constructed two-seat Dodge Charger race car, similar to the car he drives in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
"I am extremely proud of this program and can't wait for the first event at MIS," Keselowski said. "Over the course of the past few years, I've had the opportunity to meet a number of wounded service members and I'm always so inspired by their stories. The work they do and sacrifices they have made allow me to be able to come out here and do what I love to do every weekend-drive a race car. I'm pleased to share some of my world back with them."
The goal behind the Race to Recovery program, according to Keselowski, is to inspire and incentivize those who are working hard to overcome service-related injuries with a three-day VIP Race Experience. Three service members/veterans along with one "crew chief"-the person who has most inspired them in their road toward recovery-per market will be invited for the three-day experience. In addition to numerous at-track perks, these individuals will receive a specialty driver suit, private time with Keselowski and other Team Penske drivers, video and photographs from their personal experience, and more.
In addition, another 15 veterans and their guests will be invited to watch either the Saturday or Sunday race in the CFF at-track suite. VA case managers will determine the individuals who should receive suite tickets, with an emphasis on rewarding those who have met certain milestones in their treatment. These individuals will also receive garage and pit tours, meet-and-greets with drivers and team owners, recognition in at-track events and race programs, and more.
Keselowski's Checkered Flag Foundation was founded in June of 2010 and received its 501(c)(3) designation in September. In its partial first year, the foundation held several events at-track for wounded veterans, including VIP days at the races at MIS and Talladega.
Dustin Humphrey, a Gaylesville, Ala., resident who attended the Talladega race with his wife Jessica, was extremely impressed with the VIP experience- most notably, the one-on-one time Keselowski spent with each and every one of the veterans and their family members.
"I was so impressed with the time Brad spent with us and how genuine he was," Humphrey said. "It was such a great day for my wife and I and we are really thankful, and really couldn't stop talking about it. We just couldn't get over how great Brad and the CFF folks were, what he's done for veterans and first responders, and what a true hero's hero he is."
But Humphrey, a Marine who sufferered a traumatic brain injury during his time in service and who builds specialty rifles as a hobby, didn't stop there. To show his thanks to CFF, he has been working diligently with multiple vendors who have donated parts for him to build a one-of-a-kind rifle for CFF to raffle off to support the Race to Recovery program.
"It's the least I can do after what they've done for us," Humphrey said.
Humphrey's call to action is the type of positive reaction Keselowski hopes to inspire in veterans who participate in the Race to Recovery program.
"I am so impressed by the great sacrifices that these men and women have made for our country," Keselowski said. "I know that the recovery process takes a toll, not only on them but on their families as well. If we can inspire at least one individual to work a little harder in their treatment, and to maybe pass that positive attitude on to others, then I count that as a positive metric."
Brad Keselowski's Checkered Flag Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that supports those who have sacrificed for us, including military, veterans, first responders and their families, among others. For more information on CFF, you can visit http://checkeredflagfoundation.org or check out the Checkered Flag Foundation on Facebook at www.fbook.me/CFF and on Twitter at BKCFF.