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AUG 15, 2014 | Brooklyn, Michigan

Military Veteran Designs Almirola's No. 43 Fusion Paint Scheme For Michigan

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(Richard Petty Motorsports Press Release)

Marine Staff Sergeant Daniel Wright was willing to do something for others and never expected any recognition in return. After being told that he was designing a scheme for a diecast model car to be given to fellow military families aided by Operation Homefront, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Aric Almirola pulled up in a full-size replica No. 43 Eckrich Ford with the exact colors and logos that Wright created. Almirola jumped out of the car and surprised the Purple Heart recipient by letting him know that he and his family were being honored today. He explained that he and his Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) team will race his paint scheme this weekend at the Michigan International Speedway.

The surprise was courtesy of Eckrich, partner of both Operation Homefront and RPM. Almirola also presented Wright and his family  with a VIP weekend at the race track including garage passes, authentic Eckrich crew shirts, hats and the opportunity to meet “The King” Richard Petty.

Eckrich, Operation Homefront and Almirola surprised the family at a local Kroger grocery store in Ypsilanti, Mich. Thursday night prior to race weekend. Believing only he would see his scheme on a small diecast model car for the first time, Wright not only saw his design come to life, but was also rewarded with one year of free Eckrich Smoked Sausage. The surprise and gift are all part of the Eckrich “Operation Inspiration” campaign, which supports and honors military families.

Wright and his family, which includes two children, live in the Operation Homefront Village in Gaithersburg, MD. The Operation Homefront Village program affords wounded warriors and their families with rent-free, utility-free, fully furnished apartments while they transition from the military.

Wright has always enjoyed art and design. Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc., wanted to recognize him for his service and give him the opportunity to showcase his artistic talent.

Almirola is looking forward to running Wright’s scheme this weekend.

“This is a cool looking car that I’m honored to race this weekend,” said Almirola. “I think Daniel was a bit shocked when he saw the car pull up and then he was really happy when we told him that we were going to race his design this weekend. That’s pretty special for him and it’s great to see Eckrich give them one year of free Eckrich Smoked Sausage.”

Eckrich is in its third year of partnership with Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit which provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.Eckrich has already raised more than $750,000 in donations for the charity.

“We are looking forward to seeing Daniel’s scheme on the No. 43 Eckrich Ford this weekend,” said Charles Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group. “We are grateful to him for taking his time to design the car in honor of our military families and now we’re going to honor him and his family this weekend. The car looks great and we’re excited to see it on the track.”

Wright was taken back when he found out that his paint scheme was going to be on the car this weekend.

“No way,” exclaimed Wright after seeing Almirola pull up in his design. “I can’t believe this. I designed this on a computer and it was really cool to see it on a model car. Now, to see it on the real race car is unbelievable. I can’t wait to see this car on the track this weekend. This is great that Eckrich, Aric and Richard Petty Motorsports are supporting families like mine. They are showing they haven’t forgotten about us even after we’ve come home.”