May 28, 2018 : By Michael Claybaugh - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
NASCAR Cup Series rookie William Byron competed in his first “600 Miles of Remembrance” race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 27, driving the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro. The car sported a patriotic paint scheme and carried the names of two men who served our nation and had close connections to the university, where Byron is a sophomore pursuing a business communication degree.
Liberty was the primary sponsor for the No. 24 in the Memorial Day Weekend race, which was part of the NASCAR Salutes program.
The name of U.S. Army Maj. Mike Donahue was blazed across the top of the windshield. Donahue was an Army Airborne Corps paratrooper who was killed at age 41 in a September 2014 Taliban suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, while on his third combat tour. Donahue served as an assistant professor of military science for Liberty’s Army ROTC program from August 2008 to July 2010, also earning his master’s and doctoral degrees in education. Donahue is a recipient of the Purple Heart as well as the Bronze Star and Defense Meritorious Service medals.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Charlie Davidson, whose name was displayed above the driver’s side door, had a decorated 20-year career as a military chaplain before becoming director of Liberty’s Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program. He was the first Air Force chaplain to serve in Baghdad and was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery and valor under hostile fire and combat conditions during Operation Iraqi Freedom in November 2003. Davidson died following a battle with cancer at the age of 59 in April 2017. He had ties to NASCAR as a member of Bristol Raceway Ministries’ Board of Directors.
Donahue and Davidson have both been honored with the university’s George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award.
Members of both families attended the race.
Byron was running in the top 15 before contact with the outside wall affected his night at his hometown track and led to an early exit.