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NASCAR driver experiences live fire exercise, serves as crew chief at HARB

NASCAR driver experiences live fire exercise, serves as crew chief at HARB

by Senior Airman Aja Heiden
482nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/12/2014 – HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla.  — Aric Almirola, currently 10th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, visited Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, Sept. 10, to participate in a live fire exercise, work alongside a crew chief, and have a lunch with select Airman.

Almirola drives the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford and is one of 16 drivers in the “Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup” that concludes at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 16.

Almirola is one of 16 drivers in the series. He has strong ties to Florida and the Air Force community. He was born at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, while his dad served in the military.

Almirola said he has always had a passion for racing cars. He talked about his early memories growing up in Daytona, home to the Daytona 500, the most prestigious race in NASCAR.

“As a child I would go to Disney World for a few days, but all I cared about was the one day at the Daytona race,” said Almirola.

While here, Almirola participated in a live fire exercise with the 482nd Mission Support Group Fire Department. During the controlled exercise, an aircraft was set on fire, and Almirola worked with a crew from the Fire Department to extinguish the flames.

“My dad was a fire fighter, so to be able to share this experience with my dad is really cool,” said Almirola.

Next, Almirola traveled to the flight line where he got up-close and personal with one of Homestead’s Mako F-16C jets.

Almirola was paired with a crew chief who took him through a pre-flight inspection. This inspection ensures the jet is in good working condition for the pilot before take-off.

Almirola said he didn’t realize how much work went into getting the aircraft ready before flight.

After marshalling the jet out of the parking spot, he went to the runway to watch it take off.

“To stand that close to an F-16 at take-off is unbelievable,” said Almirola.

Afterward, Almirola stopped by the Community Activity Center for lunch with a group of Airmen and to sign autographs.

“It was awesome,” said Senior Airman Maegan Chewning, member of the 482nd Logistics Readiness Squadron. “I didn’t know the Air Force sponsored a NASCAR driver. He seemed like a nice guy, I was so excited to get a photo with him.”

The Air Force is a long-standing sponsor of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

In 2010, the Air Force partnered with Richard Petty Motorsports for the No. 19 car driven by Elliot Sadler. For 37 races, Sadler’s No. 19 featured the Air Force’s dark blue paint scheme.

In 2012, the Air Force continued its partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports and the No. 43 car with Almirola for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Most recently, Almirola won the 2014 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona Beach, Florida.

Almirola said he hopes to return to the Homestead-Miami Speedway and win the championship.

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