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NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace to honor World War II ‘Flying Tigers’ at Dover

NASCAR fans watching Sunday’s Würth 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway are going to see a special paint design on Bubba Wallace’s No. 23 car honoring the World War II Flying Tigers and Vietnam War veterans.

Wallace told Military Times the paint scheme, which will be unveiled at the April 28 race, is a call back to a 2019 design that honored the A-10 Thunderbolt. Four Vietnam War veterans will also have their names on the hood of the car — and attend the race.

“There’s a lot of race fans, a lot of crew members, part of the race teams that have a military background,” Wallace told Military Times. “I think anytime you show up with anything military in our sport it’s all four thumbs up for us to be able to represent that heritage and that legacy with an exciting paint scheme.”

The paint job was completed in coordination with telecommunications business Xfinity and the U.S. Air Force. Xfinity will release an ad with the four veterans during the race to celebrate Military Appreciation Month, held each May.

Former Sen. John McCain proposed a month-long observance to honor military members in 1999, with Congress eventually passing the legislation in April of that year.

Wallace said unveiling the design at Dover International Speedway made sense given the track’s proximity to Dover Air Force Base.

“The renderings I’ve seen brings back that old school look, but with a new twist with the next-gen car,” Wallace told Military Times. “The Toyota Camry body looks mean, showing its teeth. I think sometimes you got to show your teeth, and sometimes you got to use them, especially in this sport.”

The unit known as the Flying Tigers — otherwise referred to as the American Volunteer Corps — was tasked with using former military pilots to support the defense of China against Japan, according to the Department of Defense.

First seeing combat in December 1941, the Flying Tigers originally had 43 serviceable P-40B fighters and 84 former U.S. military pilots, according to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Though disbanded in July 1942 after only eight months of combat, the Flying Tigers destroyed 296 Japanese aircraft in China and present-day Myanmar. A few pilots ended up joining a regular Army unit called the China Air Task Force, which served as the origin of the 14th Air Force.

“It just shows that the Pacific and Asia has really always been important to us over here in the United States and the Air Force,” Wallace told Military Times. “Being able to honor them, show some remembrance, show some highlights and try to be super fast and really, really tough on the race track — I think it’s super cool.

“Anytime we can give back and show our appreciation, especially in NASCAR, it’s super fun and it’s a no brainer,” he added.

As for the race on Sunday, Wallace said he’s envisioning a top-five finish.

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