The 37-year-old Stewart-Haas Racing NASCAR Cup Series driver was born on Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where his father, Ralph, who fled communist Cuba as a child with his family, was serving.
“It just made me appreciate the sacrifice, jy weet, living it firsthand … seeing my dad go to work every day and put his uniform on and just really knowing and understanding what that looks like and what that sacrifice really is,” Almirola said during an appearance on The Fox Garage.
As part of NASCAR’s Memorial Day weekend 600 Miles of Remembrance during the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, all of the cars will be carrying the names of fallen veterans above their windshield.
“Fortunately for me, my dad is still around. But this weekend, vir die 600 Miles of Remembrance, we’re going to take this opportunity to remember the people that paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Almirola said.
Almirola’s Ford Mustang will be saluting Master-At-Arms Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor, a Navy SEAL who threw himself on a grenade to save his squad during a mission in Iraq in 2006.
Monsoor was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush for his valor in 2008 and had a Navy Zumwalt class destroyer named after him.
“What a selfless act, and he paid the ultimate sacrifice not only for them to stay alive, but for our freedom, for me and you to get to do what we love to do and live in this great country,” Almirola said.
Monsoor’s mother, Susan, sent Almirola a note telling him how her son loved cars and to go fast.
“She told me to make sure I put the pedal to the metal with his name on the car.”
Almirola will definitely be doing that as he looks to pick up his first win of the season and punch his ticket to the NASCAR playoffs.