Four Olympians help kick off race

Richmond International Raceway already brings excitement for fans as it is the last race before NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup field is set – and is a short track.

Now, the track is upping the competition by bringing in four Olympians from the state to join US Marine Sgt. John Peck to lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance prior to the Sept. 9 race.

LaShawn Merritt (born in Portsmouth) won two gold medals in 2008 in Beijing in the 400-meter and 4×400-meter relay. Merritt suffered a hamstring injury two weeks before the London Games and did not finish the 400-meter qualifying heat; Kellie Wells (attended James River High in Richmond and Hampton University) won a bronze in the 100-meter hurdles in London; Terrence Jennings (from Alexandria) earned a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympic Games in tae kwon do; and T’erea Brown (from Hampton) finished sixth in the 400-meter hurdles in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Sgt. Peck lost his arms and legs during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan after an IED exploded in 2010. This happened just two years after he tore the right front lobe of his brain when his vehicle ran over an IED. The Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Gary Sinise Foundation are building a Smart Home for Peck in Spotsylvania, Va.