Maxwell Airman presents trophy at Talladega
By Airman 1st Class Alexa Culbert, 42 Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 23, 2014
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
Forty-three cars zoomed around the track, getting faster with each of the 188 laps. The crowd roared in excitement and went wild when their favorite driver advanced in the race, but their cheers couldn't be heard over the deafening roar of the engines. They watched in awe when cars collided, leaving the smell of rubber and gasoline in the air.
This was not just any race; this was the Geico 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway, arguably NASCAR's most competitive race. Waiting for the drivers at the end was the Freedom Trophy and the opportunity to proceed to the eliminator round in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Senior Airman Donald Googe Jr., 42nd Air Base Wing Legal Office paralegal, presented the Freedom Trophy to winner Brad Keselowski, Oct. 19, 2014.
The Freedom Trophy, a pentagon-shaped trophy that showcases the five branches of the military, is part of NASCAR's newest tradition of honoring the military. The winning driver is presented the Freedom Trophy by a member of the armed forces.
"It's a great honor to be able to present the trophy on behalf of the Air Force and the other military branches," said Googe.
Along with presenting the trophy, Googe also spoke at the pre-ceremony and greeted the drivers, and he and his wife and father received a behind-the-scenes looks at the race. He was especially excited when he learned his father, a NASCAR fan, could accompany him on the trip.
"My father definitely motivated me to do it," he said of presenting the trophy. "When I heard I could take him with me, I thought it was awesome and it's been such a great experience for both of us."
The Airman and his family were given an opportunity most individuals will never get, but Googe's appearance also gave the Air Force an opportunity to connect with the community.
"I think it's a great community engagement," he said. "Reaching out to people and encouraging them to join [the Air Force] and showing them what we do, it's very important from a recruiting stand point."
Googe said, "It was very exciting, it was a great race from start to finish, but the end was my favorite," describing the lead changes up to the very end of the race.
Googe's participation in the Geico 500 was a part of NASCAR and Armed Forces Foundation's "Troops to the Track" program, which is a way for NASCAR to give back to service members.