JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – The patriotism is on full display this week at Rounds 6 and 7 of Red Bull Global Rallycross, the doubleheader at MCAS New River. It’s fitting considering it’s July 4 weekend.
For the U.S. Marines themselves stationed here or visiting this weekend, it’s an opportunity for them to see something new and different as rallycross racing takes over the base.
With today’s event (Sunday, 5 p.m. ET, NBC) opened to the public after Saturday’s activity was open to D.o.D. and authorized personnel, it’s a chance for both Marines and civilians to see action here.
The hope from those who saw last year’s inaugural Red Bull GRC race at MCAS New River was that they wanted it back for an encore.
“Last year as soon as it was over, all the Marines were like, ‘Man, I hope they come back.’ Because everyone was super excited,” Lance Corp. Ned Johnson of the MCAS New River Public Affairs Office told NBC Sports.
“There were a lot of Patrik Sandell and other various T-shirts given out last year, now guys are wearing them around town. So people know they’re coming back.”
Johnson expanded on the cool aspects of accessibility here at a Red Bull GRC event.
“There are so many cool aspects. For the Marines, the cool part is if you went to a NASCAR race, chances of meeting anyone is remote,” he explained. “Here they’ll all know where everyone is, with drivers, mechanics all around and about. You can’t get that anywhere else.
“It shows Red Bull GRC wants Marines to get something out of it. The racing is almost secondary because we get to meet the people who care about us.”
Several Marines got to go for ride-alongs on Thursday, as well, including MCAS New River new Commanding Officer Russell Burton, who only just took his new post recently.
“I want to do it again!” Burton told NBC Sports after riding with Chip Ganassi Rallycross driver Brian Deegan in his No. 38 NOS Energy Drink Ford Fiesta ST.
“There’s a lot of G-forces coming off the line. But the seat kept me in place very tight. It was just remarkable.”
Sgt. Jared Lingafelt, also of the PA Office, rode with Austin Dyne in his No. 14 Relativity Media Ford for AD Racing and called his ride “an incredible experience.”
Johnson rode in 2015 and described more of the sensation from the passenger’s seat.
“I think we have a huge advantage of having a runway, which just makes a massive asphalt straightaway,” he said. “That straightaway is just… I don’t know if I’ve ever been that fast that quickly. It was intense. You then slam on the brakes going into the turn. It’s awesome to be in a car going that fast.”
There’s also a military component for one of the Supercars drivers. Jeff Ward of SH Rallycross, who drives the No. 07 MET-Rx Ford, has a son in the military. Brandon Geoffrey Ward, 23, is private first class in the U.S. Army (pictured right).
“It’s exciting. He’s super excited,” Jeff Ward told NBC Sports. “He works the night shift over there in intelligence division. So he gets to watch live on his computer. He knows it’s on a base here. It’s cool for me to be here.”
The Marines here described how incredible this weekend is to them.
“It was really special for me as a Marine,” Lingafelt said. “Racing is an American way of life – bigger, faster, stronger – and it’s exciting to see the camaraderie between Marines and how they interact with drivers and teams. All drivers and teams are so open and friendly.”
Added Burton, “We really appreciate the fact they brought the series here to show their appreciation for Marines, the sailors, and the civilian Marines stationed aboard MCAS New River and Camp Lejuene. We love the fact they are here.”