Just days before the 53rd running of the Great American Race at Daytona International Speedway®, American heroes were honored by Crown Royal and the NASCAR community during a patriotic ceremony where Rodney Atkins unveiled United States Marine Corps Staff Sergeant (SSgt.) Matthew Hansen as the grand-prize winner of the annual Crown Royal “Your Name Here” 400 program.
Traditionally, the race at Richmond International Raceway has donned the first and last name of the grand-prize winner, but the April 30th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will not just recognize Matthew, but also his identical twin brother and fellow Marine, Daniel, who was killed in action Feb. 14th, 2009. Forty-three of NASCAR’s finest drivers will compete for the Crown Royal Presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400 trophy.
Atkins performed his hit song “These are My People” during an acoustic set in front of hundreds of fans and members of the NASCAR community in the Daytona International Speedway FANZONE. When Atkins came to the end of his song, he added in the Hansen brothers’ names to unveil the winner, singing “Matthew and Daniel Hansen.” Atkins will also appear at Richmond International Raceway for the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400.
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Matthew Hansen lives in San Marcos, Calif., and was chosen from a group of five military finalists who were all nominated by their friends and family for their ability to demonstrate the core values of the military in performing a selfless act that made them a hero. Matthew’s godmother nominated him for amazing service during three deployments to Iraq and for continuing to serve with amazing courage and faith after losing his twin brother and best friend.
“To have thousands of fans vote for me to receive this unbelievable experience leaves me nearly speechless,” said Hansen. “I am so grateful for this opportunity to honor my brother Daniel and share his incredible story with millions of NASCAR fans. I came into this world with Daniel, joined the Marines with him, and never expected to be standing here today without him. My race is his race.”
Matthew and Daniel joined the Marines just weeks apart in 2002, and both quickly excelled in their training. Through his work in logistics, Matthew deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom three times and due to injury now works at the San Marcos base, but hopes to return overseas again. Daniel was handpicked to guard former President George W. Bush at Camp David in 2004 and later Lt. Gen. Richard Zilmer while in Iraq. Daniel continued to proudly serve his country until he was killed in action by a roadside bomb while supporting combat operations in the Farah province of Afghanistan. For his service, Daniel was promoted posthumously to Staff Sergeant.
Adult fans were able to read all of the finalists’ stories, and cast their vote for the service member to receive the naming rights on www.NASCAR.com. Thousands of votes were placed during the voting period.
“I can speak for the entire Crown Royal family when I say we are incredibly grateful for the dedication and courage displayed by all service members, and are so appreciative to those who nominated the thousands of military members for our ‘Your Name Here’ program,” said Yvonne Briese, Crown Royal Brand Director. “We look forward to not only treating Matthew to a royal weekend, but also to help share his brother’s story and the story of all fallen soldiers.”
“It is a privilege to host Matthew as he honors his brother at Richmond International Raceway on April 30th,” said track president Doug Fritz. “We are thrilled to again team up with Crown Royal for the ‘Your Name Here’ program, recognizing members of our Armed Forces. The Crown Royal Presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will be a momentous event at America’s Premier Short Track.”
In addition to Atkins, the ceremony to unveil Matthew Hansen as the winner included NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth, along with representatives from Crown Royal, Richmond International Raceway and 4-Star Admiral Mark P. Fitzgerald, US Navy (Retired) with over 37 years of military service.
The Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400 will be incorporated into all official race logos, used for thousands of pieces of merchandise and recognized by NASCAR’s broadcast and media partners as the race’s official title. In addition, Matthew will take part in pre-race festivities at Richmond International Raceway and participate in the trophy presentation to the race winner in Gatorade Victory Lane. During the race weekend, he will receive VIP accommodations for himself and a guest.
Leading up to the big day in Richmond, Crown Royal will continue to remind fans to “Please Drink Responsibly.” through its “Safe Rides Home” designated driver initiatives and other programming designed to reinforce the importance of drinking responsibly.