Veteran and cancer survivor to cook for “King” Petty

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Army Staff Sgt. Fabian Hall has fought to defend our freedom and has also turned back cancer. This weekend, he’ll add another accomplishment: Cooking for NASCAR legend Richard Petty.

Through military charity Operation Homefront and Eckrich Foods (which sponsors the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford driven by Aric Almirola in Sprint Cup), Hall will get to help man the grill for the No. 43 team during this weekend’s NASCAR activities at Texas Motor Speedway. On Saturday, he’ll prepare a special meal for seven-time Cup champion Petty and enjoy VIP treatment afterwards for that night’s NRA 500.

“I thought the race weekend was starting a little bit early when I saw the No. 43 come racing around the parking lot,” said Hall, who was surprised with the honor on Thursday night outside a Kroger grocery store in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I really didn’t know what was happening, but then Aric came out of the car and said I could come cook for the race team this weekend. I just can’t believe it. I’m still a bit shocked about everything that is happening, but it’s really cool. I can’t wait to cook for the race team this weekend.”

Hall, an avid cook that has made two tours of duty in Iraq, saw his service cut short upon his cancer diagnosis. After he returned to the States, Operation Homefront provided him and his two sons with a place to live at its “village” in San Antonio.

We’re happy to report that Hall’s cancer is now in remission, and that he now plans to become a culinary arts student.

“All of our military veterans are heroes, but when you hear a story like Fabian’s, who is a single father and who has survived cancer, it makes it even better to give back,” said Almirola. “We’re going to make sure he has a good time with the crew this weekend.”

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/