May 18, 2022 : By Ted Allen - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
For the fifth Memorial Day weekend in a row, William Byron, NASCAR driver and student of Liberty University Online Programs, will race in the 600 Miles of Remembrance at his hometown track of Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway honoring a fallen service member with Liberty connections.
On Sunday, May 29, the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will don the name of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Ronald “Aaron” Grider on its windshield while featuring a full patriotic paint scheme. The Sunday night race will be broadcast on FOX starting at 6 p.m. EST, following a pre-race military salute with demonstrations from Fort Bragg, N.C., where Grider formerly served for five years in the Special Operations Command (Airborne).
At the time of his death, Grider, originally from Alton, Ill., was pursuing a B.S. in Multidisciplinary Studies. He was killed on his 30th birthday on Sept. 18, 2010, by machine gun fire while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces’ Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Grider received the Purple Heart and is a three-time Bronze Star Medal recipient. He had served on previous deployments to Afghanistan as well as Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Memorial Day is such a special day to so many families to honor all of those that we have lost and their loved ones still here,” Byron said. “It means a lot to have Army Sgt. Grider’s name on the car, especially with the connection of him being a Liberty University online student that was pursuing his degree. It’s special to honor him. I’m sure his family is going to be thankful to see his name on the car. Hopefully we can have a great race for them and get them a win. That would be a great way to honor him and super special for everyone involved.”
In last year’s 600 Miles of Remembrance, Byron raced in memory of former U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, another student in Liberty’s online programs. In 2020, Byron drove in honor of former online student U.S. Army Sgt. Robert J. Billings and World War II veteran and longtime Liberty administrator George Rogers. In the 2019 race, Byron honored U.S. Air Force Captain Mark Weber, who also studied through Liberty’s online programs. In 2018, his rookie year in the NASCAR Cup Series, Byron paid tribute to two former Liberty faculty members: U.S. Army Maj. Mike Donahue, a former assistant professor of military science for Liberty’s Army ROTC program, and Ret. Air Force Lt. Col. Charlie Davidson, who had a decorated 20-year career as a military chaplain before becoming director of Liberty’s Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program.
Liberty University is a primary sponsor of Byron and the No. 24 team for 12 races this season, its fifth year as a partner with Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series. Byron has raced the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 four times this season, including to a win at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March. He will climb behind the wheel of the Liberty University Chevy again for this Sunday’s All-Star race at Texas Motor Speedway, the Memorial Day weekend event in Charlotte, and six more races through the fall.
Last October, Hendrick Motorsports announced a contract extension with Liberty University as a primary sponsor through the 2026 season. Earlier this month, Byron reached a three-year contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports to continue to drive the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 through the end of the 2025 Cup Series season.
The 24-year-old strategic communication major is one of only two Cup Series drivers with multiple race wins this season and currently sits fourth in the driver points standings through 13 races, already locked into his fourth consecutive Cup Series playoff appearance.