A group of five Folds of Honor scholarship winners spent Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway as guests of NASCAR on NBC, getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the production of an Xfinity Series race.
Since 2007, Folds of Honor is a charity that has provided nearly 30,000 scholarships worth more than $145 million to the spouses and children of military members who have been disabled or killed as a result of their service.
After meeting with NASCAR on NBC announcers and pit reporters for lunch in the compound, the scholarship recipients visited the TV booths to chat with Rick Allen and Dale Earnhardt Jr. about calling the race and then headed to the infield, where Rutledge Wood was among those who guided them through the NASCAR garage.
For two hours during the Xfinity race coverage, the five students rotated between four stations in the TV compound to get a bird’s-eye view of the fast-paced and frenzied world of TV production.
The five students who took part in the tour were:
—Preston Jones of Tucker, Georgia, who is a junior studying business management at Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama. Preston, who attended with his mom, Chrystal, is the son of Army Specialist Daniel Jones Jr., who was killed in the line of duty in January 2003 when Preston was 3. (Preston’s brother, Daniel III, also is a Folds of Honor scholarship recipient.)
—Kayla Robinson of Ellenwood, Georgia, who recently graduated from North Carolina A&T with a degree in business marketing. Kayla attended with her father, Kim, a retired, disabled veteran who was an Army Chief Warrant Officer
–Gregory and Devyn Smith of Fayetteville, Georgia, who are the children of Gregory Smith, a retired, disabled veteran of 21 years as a Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class (who attended with their mother, Quilla). Gregory Jr. is a two-year scholarship recipient who is studying information systems as a junior at Georgia Gwinnett College. Devyn is studying animal science as a senior at Albany State University.
—Reilly Nichols of Owasso Oklahoma, who is studying elementary education as a senior at Oklahoma State University.
Nichols’ father is Air Force Col. (ret.) “Nick” Nichols, who is the executive vice president of operations and relationships for Folds of Honor.
As a gold-star kid himself, Nichols (an F-16 fighter pilot with seven combat tours who flew 103 combat sorties totaling more than 500 hours) has another connection to NASCAR: Corey LaJoie‘s No. 7 Chevrolet honored the memory of his father, Col. James R. Nichols, by carrying his name during the Coca-Cola 600.
Here are some photos of the Folds of Honor scholarship recipients’ day at the NASCAR race: