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Jul 26, 2015
June 17, 2014 | By IMS
As the winner of Crown Royal’s annual “Your Hero’s Name Here” program, Green Beret John Wayne Walding will attend his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race – an event named in his honor - on Sunday, July 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Walding’s life has been a whirlwind since it was announced that the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at IMS had been named the Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Powered by BigMachineRecords.com. This marks the third consecutive year that Crown Royal’s annual “Your Hero’s Name Here” program has awarded naming rights for the 400 At The Brickyard at IMS to a deserving American hero.
Walding was voted the winner over four other finalists selected from thousands of nominations. He was presented as the race namesake during the live June 4 telecast of the CMT Music Awards in Nashville, Tenn., with country music star and reigning ACM New Artist of the Year Justin Moore making the announcement. Moore presented Walding with a custom-made Gibson guitar bearing the official race logo incorporating Walding’s name.
“It’s a humbling feeling, it truly is,” Walding said. “I’m honored and I tell everyone I’m no hero, though. The men and women who didn’t make it back, they’re heroes and I’ll do the best that I can to honor them.”
Walding is excited about his upcoming trip to Indianapolis to attend the 21st edition of the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at IMS, where his name will be seen throughout the facility.
“I guess it’s kind of like hitting a grand slam with your first pitch in baseball,” Walding said. “To be honest, I haven’t had time to let it all settle in. Everybody has given me a call with congratulations, with congratulatory emails and everything. I’ve just been so busy since I got back from Nashville.”
As Walding’s new celebrity status has made his life a little more hectic, his free time will continue to be scarce when he arrives at IMS for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
“To go there and participate in pace car rides, garage tours, deliver the trophy and wave the green flag is going to be an unbelievable experience, and it’s going to make my second race stink,” he said.
A married father of four living in Little Elm, Texas, Walding, who believes that becoming a member of the Green Berets is the hardest and most fulfilling accomplishment of his life, served for 12 years in the Army with tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. While in Afghanistan in 2008, Walding was involved in a battle to capture a high-value target when he was wounded and lost the lower part of his right leg.
“It was a long road,” Walding said about his recovery. “I had a couple surgeries following that, but within the first year I did the Boston Marathon on a bike where you sit down and crank with your hands and I got fourth place, and how cool is that? And then I ran the Army 10-miler (using a prosthesis) about a year and a half after losing my leg.”
Walding, whose numerous awards from his distinguished military career include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Combat Infantry Badge, wanted to achieve another goal before he accepted a medical retirement from the Army in March 2012.
“I always kept trying to serve my country and I was working at the 3rd Special Forces Group Sniper Detachment teaching sniper school,” he said. “To be a primary instructor I had to go through the Special Forces Sniper School, which in my opinion is the hardest one the military has to offer. It’s two months long and even two-legged people couldn’t make it, so for me to become the first amputee to graduate from that school was quite the honor.”
Since retiring from the military, Walding had been searching for ways to assist his fellow veterans in a variety of ways, including helping them with their careers. Walding, who is the founder of Five Toes Custom, a company that employs armed forces veterans, developed the idea for the company following a conversation with his friend David Feherty, a former professional golfer and a commentator for CBS Sports and the Golf Channel.
“We were out shooting guns one day and he asked me if I ever considered building rifles for a living, and I had,” Walding said. “So with his help he got me into building them, and I told him that I didn’t just want to provide a product, that it had to be something bigger than myself. If I can be a guy to give some of these veterans a reason to get out of the house and a reason to wake up in the morning because ‘I gotta get up and go see John because he’s counting on me to be at work,’ this is the guy I want to be.”
An American patriot born on the Fourth of July, Walding’s indomitable spirit and passion for living is inspired by his family and his comrades in arms that he’ll never forget.
“I tell everyone I’m never finished,” Walding said. “I truly believe that I owe it to my brothers that didn’t make it back to live well. I’m breathing and they’re not, and I need to suck it up and grab onto life and do the best I can with it.”
2014 ticket information: Ticket information is available for the remaining events in 2014 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard and Red Bull Indianapolis GP.
Fans can order tickets at www.ims.com/tickets, by calling 800-822-INDY or 317-492-6700 between 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or by visiting the Ticket Office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday.
Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are available. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.