Indy Has a Hero for Brickyard 400
June 5, 2014 | 11:09 A.M. EST
The naming of next month's Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway features retired Army Sergeant John Wayne Walding from Little Elm, Texas. (Photo: Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - When Green Beret John Wayne Walding attends his first NASCAR race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next month, he'll see a familiar name visible all around the track - his own.
Walding is the winner of Crown Royal's annual "Your Hero's Name Here" program, which awards naming rights to Indy's Sprint Cup Series race to a deserving American hero. Walding's name will be incorporated into the official race title, Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at The Brickyard Powered by BigMachineRecords.com. It will be run on Sunday, July 27.
Walding is a highly decorated Army veteran who served for 12 years, completing tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. While overseas in 2008, he was involved in a fire fight during a mission to capture a high-value target, during which he lost the lower part of his right leg.
After recovering from his injury, Walding was the first amputee to graduate from the Special Forces Sniper School. He completed the Army 10-miler on foot and the 2009 Boston Marathon utilizing a hand cycle, within a year of the accident. Among Walding's awards and badges are the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge. Walding was nominated for the Crown Royal program by his brother. He lives in Little Elm, Texas, with his wife Amy and their four children.
He is the founder of Five Toes Custom, which employs wounded veterans in an effort to provide support and direction in their lives.
"The fact that Crown Royal cares enough to say 'Thank you' for what I've done is a true validation for my sacrifice," Walding said. "The magnitude of those two words goes above and beyond."
Walding was announced as the program's winner Wednesday during the CMT Music Awards in Nashville. He was joined in "Music City" by the four other finalists: Tara Hulett of Albany, N.Y.; James Bailey of Pamplin, Va.; Bryce Boyer of Wanship, Utah, and Tyler Whisenhunt of Gentry, Ark. The five finalists were selected from thousands of nominations submitted to CrownRoyalHeroes.com. Consumers 21 and older voted for the hero they thought was most deserving.
"The sacrifices made by John Wayne Walding and countless heroes across the country serve as an inspiration to all of us," said Abby Wise, brand director for Crown Royal.
As part of Walding's Grand Prize package, he will take part in a VIP at-track experience that includes garage tours, pace car rides and concerts by Big Machine Label Group artists. He'll cap the weekend by handing the trophy bearing his name to the race winner in Victory Lane.