RCR teams visit VA

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 21, 2011

By Robin Perry
For the Salisbury Post
There was an air of excitement Friday in Building 42 at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center. Parked out front were two Richard Childress race cars.
Friday was the first time a racing team has been to the Salisbury VA.
Inside, a steady stream of veterans walked or rolled through the atrium, having the chance to meet RCR drivers Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon and Joey Coulter.
In addition, members of the Helping Hands Pit Crew for Clint Boyer’s No. 33 race car were there, dressed in their signature red and yellow suits, signing autographs and visiting with the veterans as they came through the line.
Pit crew members there were Dustin Necaise, rear-tire changer, Matt Kreuter, rear-tire carrier, Austin Craven, front-tire carrier, Bryan Smith, gas man, and Nick Terry, jackman.
“It is nice they come out and do this for the vets,” said Roger Archambault, a veteran of the Vietnam War.
U.S. Marine Corps member John Harrison agreed.
“It is a great thing for them to take time off to spend with the vets,” he said. “It really lifts our spirits.”
RCR racing members found their way to the VA through the efforts of several people. Melissa Yost, a part-time nurse for the VA’s Rural Health program, is married to pit-crew member Jason Yost. She asked him if they could visit the veterans.
The Rev. Richard Payne, team chaplain for RCR, helped work out the details.
“RCR is a big supporter of veterans,” said Payne. “We have hosted vets at the shop and Richard Childress would have been here if he hadn’t been working with a sponsor today. We would like to come on a regular basis.”
Payne added that Clint Boyer said he would come in the future.
The drivers and pit crew seemed to enjoy meeting the veterans as much as the veterans enjoyed talking to them and getting autographs. They ate lunch with some of the veterans and visited others in their rooms, as well as in the Hospice unit.
Austin Dillon, 20, driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Silverado and rookie of the year in his division, said the veterans and their stories touched him.
“It is cool to hear their stories, they are so special,” he said. “They kept our country free, so we can be free and go out and race. We are fortunate to be able to see them here today.”
Austin Dillon’s younger brother, Ty, drives the No. 41 car in ARCA competition. He chose that number because his grandfather, Richard Childress, raced with it in Winston-Salem.
The third driver there, Coulter, 20, drives the No. 22 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing
Coyt Witherspoon Hewitt, an Army veteran who grew up on a farm near Cleveland, asked the young drivers how fast they go. When they told him they drive 180-200 mph, he told them, “you better go get ya’ some good insurance!”
Wilburt Williams, another Army veteran agreed with the other veterans who thanked the drivers for coming to visit them.
“We really appreciate their coming out here to see us. It means a lot,” he said.
Edwina Gray Wright, rural health program manager at the VA, said the event was a success.
“We love to provide some joy to our vets along with the personal services here,” she said.
While this was the first time race car drivers and pit crew members have been to the VA, it won’t be the last if the enthusiasm of both the Richard Childress Racing team and the veterans is any indication.