NASCAR fans will see more than just a race this Memorial Day weekend.
On Sunday, during the Coca-Cola 600 festivities, NASCAR driver Jeffrey Earnhardt and veteran-owned Nine Line Apparel’s business development leader Matt Lyda will present a check for $15,000 to Joe Lewis, founder of the nonprofit Angels of America’s Fallen.
The big race is at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Earnhardt, whose late great-grandfather was a prisoner of war during World War II, comes from a long line of deeply loved and respected drivers — you might call him “racing royalty.” Jeffrey Earnhardt is the grandson of the late Dale Earnhardt and the nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Angels of America’s Fallen (AoAF) is an organization dedicated to “standing with the children of America’s fallen military and first responders, while also honoring their fallen parent’s legacy.”
Nine Line Apparel creates “relentlessly patriotic” clothing, and it supports initiatives that enrich the lives of those who serve (learn more in the video below!).
Together, Earnhardt, Nine Line, and AoAF will help a lot of children this Memorial Day.
“[Nine Line does] a lot of amazing stuff, and I’m all about supporting our military, our veterans, and our fallen soldiers,” Earnhardt told LifeZette ahead of Sunday’s big race.
“We are just honored to be able to help not only raise funds but also [raise] awareness of AoAF across the nation, through both our fan base and Jeffrey’s,” Army retired Capt. Tyler Merritt, Nine Line Apparel’s co-founder and a Bronze Star recipient, told LifeZette in an email. “The more people know about the work they do, the more children can be supported through their programs.”
AoAF works on a case-by-case basis to establish mentoring relationships between recipient children and coaches, or instructors. The coaches, in turn, work with the kids on a healthy, developmental activity of the children’s choosing. AoAF fully covers activity-related expenses through age 18 for participating kids.
The phrase “Nine Line,” used proudly by the clothing company Earnhardt is partnering with, is a reference to a medevac request for a soldier injured on the battlefield; to soldiers, the phrase represents patriotism, hope, and trust in one’s countrymen, the company’s website explains.
Earnhardt and Nine Line plan to continue their partnership to support Nine Line’s nonprofit, the Nine Line Foundation, which Merritt founded in 2013 to give back to our nation’s veterans.
Nine Line Apparel has three tenets: Respect the flag and what it stands for; support those who have and continue to serve honorably as members of the military, police department, fire department, or any other public service; and know that being patriotic is nothing to be ashamed of — most important of all.
Merritt’s team at Nine Line Apparel has created a special, limited-run T-shirt design, with proceeds going to support AoAF. Anyone who purchases a T-shirt receives the option of providing the name of a fallen soldier or first responder.
“[My grandfather] loved our military. He loved our country. And he definitely would be proud.”
The names of over 600 men and women — including fallen Navy SEAL hero Chris Kyle, whose service was chronicled in the book and film “American Sniper” — will be emblazoned on the hood of Earnhardt’s Chevy, #55, which he will be driving in the race.
“It’s definitely going to be pretty emotional to see all the names,” Earnhardt told LifeZette.
Earnhardt said he believes his grandfather, the late Dale Earnhardt, would be proud of his collaboration with Nine Line.
“I think he would think it was awesome,” said Earnhardt. “[My grandfather] loved our military. He loved our country. And he definitely would be proud.”
NASCAR is a sport that boasts a long, proud and patriotic history. Earlier this week at the White House, President Donald Trump congratulated NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr. on his 2017 championship season.
During the ceremony, Trump specifically mentioned Earnhardt Sr. He also pointed out that at NASCAR events, fans stand for the national anthem.
“At every NASCAR race, you will see thousands of patriotic Americans from the grandstands to the pit stalls proudly waving our flag,” President Trump said, as Fox News noted. Trump added that the sport “reflects our national spirit and can-do attitude.”
“[Fallen veterans and first responders] paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country and give us the luxury of living in this wonderful country full of freedom. To be able to help raise money for that foundation, so they can continue to support those family members, is huge for me,” said Earnhardt.
On board will be 617 names of Men & Women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country, alongside @AoAFallen .
We salute you ?? pic.twitter.com/Dw28LONlRo
— Jeffrey Earnhardt (@JEarnhardt1) May 23, 2018
At the Coca-Cola 600 this weekend, the company will be announcing the launch of a joint design called Leave No Man Behind. Proceeds will benefit Merritt’s foundation, and Jeffrey Earnhardt will feature the foundation’s logo on the hood of his car at the 2018 Coke Zero 400 in Daytona later this summer.
As for Sunday’s race, Earnhardt told LifeZette how he’s feeling about getting back in the driver’s seat.
“I’m excited,” he said. “[I’m] looking forward to getting back on the track. It’s the longest race we run all year. I hope I can knock some rust off really quick — get back in the swing of things and have a good run.”
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.
(photo credit: homepage / article images; Nine Line Apparel)