The Brickyard 400 is one of the biggest races of the year for NASCAR and for years Crown Royal has named the race after a man or woman who has gone above and beyond their duties as a person. This year the race is named, The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard, after Army Veteran John Wayne Walding.
While all eyes will be on the drivers as they race for first place, you might notice the name John Wayne Walding as you watch the event on television or if you are watching it live. Walding is a national hero and Army Veteran, and Crown Royal has named the 2014 Brickyard 400 after this American Hero.
A little background on Mr. John Wayne Walding from Crown Royal's "Your Hero's Name Here" program.
John Wayne Walding, 32, of Little Elm, Texas, served in the United States Army for 12 years with seven of those years being in the 3rd Special Forces Group, completing tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite losing his lower right leg while serving overseas, Walding was the first amputee to graduate Special Forces Sniper School. This decorated veteran was nominated by his brother because of his continued efforts to provide guidance and inspiration to fellow service men and women. A big NASCAR fan, Walding has never had the opportunity to go to a race and looks forward to attending the John Wayne Walding 400 in July.
I had the honor of speaking with Mr. Walding about his experience so far with the Crown Royal Heroes project as well as his experience leading up to the Brickyard 400.
Bleacher Report: "How did you find out you were a finalist in the Crown Royal Heroes Project?"
Walding: "My brother actually called me and said he entered me in some contest with Crown Royal. I wasn't sure what it was until I got a call from one of the reps telling me I was one of the finalists and what it was for. I was humbled by it."
Bleacher Report: "What does winning Crown Royal's Project mean to you?"
Walding: "It means a lot to me because it shows that people out there are not only supporting me for my service but also supporting our troops in general. You have no idea how much a thank you means to us. Those two words go a long way."
Bleacher Report: "What's been your favorite experience so far heading into the Brickyard 400?"
Walding: "So far I'd have to say it was going to the CMT Awards. Crown Royal paid for me and my family to go to Nashville, Tennessee and that is where I was presented as the winner and with a guitar. I'm excited for the actual race activities and being a part of everything during the Brickyard 400."
Bleacher Report: "I know you're a fan, but I heard this was your first time going to a live NASCAR event, has it sunk in that the first race you are attending is going to be named after you?"
Walding: "I know one thing, the second event is going to suck compared to this one. To be honest this is humbling and the support that I got from everyone was just amazing. This isn't a victory just for me, I want to dedicate it to all the other veterans and hope that as a nation we can continue to support our troops and thank them for the service they provide. Seeing my name everywhere will be a little weird, but I'm enjoying this and having a good time."
Bleacher Report: "Who are some of your favorite drivers?"
Walding: "I like anyone that's a good guy and a good person. I drive an F250 so I'm partial to Ford drivers like Carl Edwards, but I enjoy watching them all. Dale Jr, Jimmie Johnson they are all a joy to watch."
Bleacher Report: "Is there anything else you'd like to say to the NASCAR fans, people looking to enlist or veterans out there?"
Walding: "I just want to say thanks and also remind everyone to thank and support our troops. For those troops coming home, I just want to tell everyone to get home and stay busy. Keep moving and keep finding things to do. For those that have been home I just want to say thank you. Fighting for my country is the greatest and hardest thing I've ever done. I am so humbled by all of the support people have shown me and I am humbled by this whole experience. I'm just a country boy from Texas and this whole thing has been great."