GLADEVILLE, Tennessee — Just before the drivers started their engines Friday at the Rackley 200, which kicked off the 2022 racing weekend at Nashville Superspeedway, the crowd quieted for an announcement.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Nashville Superspeedway, in partnership with the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center at Middle Tennessee State University would like to take this moment to ask all veterans, retired or those actively serving our nation, to stand so we, as a racing community may thank you for your dedication and sacrifice in protecting our country,” the announcer said.
“Thank you for all you do, and continue to do, in serving the United States of America.”
As the crowd cheered for the standing veterans and service members, joining them was retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, MTSU’s senior advisor for veterans and leadership initiatives. That recognition formally launched a partnership between the Daniels Center and the NASCAR race track, fostered by Huber to honor veteran service and draw attention to the university’s work with military connected students.
“It is wonderful that the Nashville Superspeedway has now joined such iconic Nashville brands as the Predators, the Grand Ole Opry and the Nashville Sounds in helping the Daniels Center show support and extend honor to those who have served our nation,” Huber said.
MTSU made its presence known at the Superspeedway as the NASCAR world turned its attention to Nashville. Not only did the Daniels Center set up camp in the track’s Fan Zone, answering questions from veterans and military families about VA educational benefits and university programs, MTSU alumna Hunter Wolkonowski, of Winchester, Tennessee, better known as HunterGirl from her runner-up finish in the recent American Idol competition, serenaded fans before the race.
“So excited to play (Friday) at the Nashville Superspeedway!” the honorary Department of Recording Industryprofessor posted on her Facebook page on Thursday. “It’s gonna be fun!”
Wolkonowski, who graduated from MTSU in spring 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in the College of Media and Entertainment’s Music Business Program, performed at events benefiting the Daniels Center while attending the university. Huber brought her a photo of her with Charlie Daniels that the late country music icon autographed after her performance at the 2019 Veterans Impact Celebration.
“Y’all are gonna make me cry,” Wolkonowski said during her stop to the Daniels Center booth.
Meanwhile, before the race, Daniels Center Director Hilary Miller honored Rackley Roofing, one of Tennessee’s leading industrial and commercial roofing contractors and title sponsor of Friday’s truck race, for its efforts to connect graduating student veterans with employment opportunities in its company.
Miller presented a commemorative plaque to Michelle Boykin, Rackley’s chief operating officer and an alumna of MTSU. She graduating from the Jennings A. Jones College of Business with an accounting degree in 2006.
Rackley Roofing, established in 1974, has five locations throughout the state and is based in Carthage, Tennessee. Curtis Sutton, owner and CEO of Rackley Roofing, is also part owner of the Rackley WAR No. 25 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, driven by Matt DiBenedetto.
“Rackley is excited and honored to join the Nashville Superspeedway in supporting military- connected students through MTSU’s Daniels Center,” Sutton said in an earlier interview.
MTSU’s Army ROTC Color Guard will present the colors before the start of the nationally televised Ally 400 on Sunday.
— Andrew Oppmann (Andrew.Oppmann@mtsu.edu)