LISLE, Ill., Aug. 16, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- With the sounds of a revving race engine, Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) and Eckrich-sponsored NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Aric Almirola made a different kind of pit stop Thursday evening in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And it was all to the surprise of military family, the Kotts, in their own driveway. Almirola drove a replica of the famed No. 43 Eckrich stock car right up to the house of Sergeant First Class Howard Kott and his wife Dawn to surprise them with the opportunity to be honorary crew members this Sunday at the Michigan International Speedway.
Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, and Operation Homefront have worked together the past two years to support and thank military men and women and their families. Today's event continues that partnership with Eckrich-sponsored Almirola saying thanks in this once-and-a-lifetime manner. Once Almirola stepped out of the car, he surprised the Kott family by presenting them with crew uniforms and VIP passes and then asked them to be part of the famed No. 43 team this Sunday.
"We just heard this loud noise and came out to see Aric just driving the No. 43 down the street. He even set off someone's car alarm," said Howard Kott. "We are so excited and can't wait to get to the track on Sunday. This is really cool."
But Eckrich and Almirola weren't done honoring the family just yet. In addition to the VIP crew member experience, Eckrich brought a gift basket that Almirola presented, including Eckrich No. 43 hats, water bottles and plenty of Eckrich products. The family will also be given a pace car ride around the track on Sunday, attend the driver's meeting with Almirola and be introduced to the race crowd with "The King" Richard Petty prior to the start of the race.
"We want to keep recognizing, honoring and thanking our military veterans, wounded warriors and their families," said Almirola. "They have made a tremendous sacrifice for us to enjoy our freedom and to allow me to race each weekend. It's just a lot of fun to give back and say thanks in a different way. Eckrich and Operation Homefront are really good at doing that."
Added Howard, "All of this is just a little overwhelming but in a good way. Sometimes we don't know what the next day will bring, so this is really cool for Eckrich and Operation Homefront to provide an opportunity like this."
Sergeant First Class Howard Kott is currently active in the Army and has been deployed twice for service. He and his wife, Dawn, are race fans who are now looking forward to their first VIP experience thanks to Eckrich.
"The Kotts are a perfect example of who we are honoring and thanking for their service and sacrifice," said Chuck Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group. "To give back to them, with this unique experience is just as rewarding for us as it is to them. Our relationship with Operation Homefront allows us to make that happen and we're honored to work together to support these families and also to make surprises like today's event happen."
Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich Ford will race at the Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, August 18. Television coverage will begin at 1:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.
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Founded by Peter Eckrich in 1894, Eckrich has a rich heritage starting from a small meat market in Fort Wayne, Ind. Through it all, Eckrich meats have been recognized for their great taste and supreme quality, craftsmanship, care and pride. For more information, visit www.eckrich.com or www.facebook.com/EckrichMeats
About John Morrell Food Group
With over a century and a half of experience, John Morrell Food Group brands have become respected and well known for providing premium-quality meat products to families across the United States. With products ranging from lunchmeat and franks to smoked sausage, bacon and pepperoni, the John Morrell Food Group is an important part of consumers' mealtimes. The John Morrell Food Group offers several national and regional brands including Armour®, Eckrich®, John Morrell®, Curly's®, Patrick Cudahy®, Carando®, Healthy Ones®, Margherita® Kretschmar® and LunchMakers®.
About Smithfield Foods
Smithfield Foods is a $13 billion global food company and the world's largest pork processor and hog producer. In the United States, the company is also the leader in numerous packaged meats categories with popular brands including Smithfield®, Eckrich®, Farmland®, Armour®, Cook's®, Gwaltney®, John Morrell®, Kretschmar®, Curly's®, Carando®, Margherita®, and Healthy Ones®. Smithfield Foods is committed to providing good food in a responsible way and maintains robust animal care, community involvement, employee safety, environmental, and food safety and quality programs. For more information, visit www.smithfieldfoods.com and www.smithfieldcommitments.com.
About Operation Homefront
A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 4,500 volunteers with nationwide presence who provide emergency and other financial assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. Operation Homefront has met more than 750,000 needs of military families since its inception in 2002. A four-star rated charity by watchdog Charity Navigator, nationally, 95 percent of total revenue donated to Operation Homefront goes directly to programs that provide support to our military families. For more information, go to www.OperationHomefront.net.
About Richard Petty Motorsports
A performance and marketing driven company, Richard Petty Motorsports, co-owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty and successful business entrepreneurs Andrew Murstein and Douglas Bergeron, is one of the most recognized brands in all of motorsports. With a history of over 200 wins and business partnerships with national and global leaders, today the race operation fields two teams in competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Aric Almirola pilots the famous No. 43 Ford Fusion with primary partners Smithfield Foods, U.S. Air Force and STP and Marcos Ambrose drives the No. 9 machine with primary partners Stanley and DEWALT. In addition, Michael Annett wheels the No. 43 Pilot Flying J Ford Mustang full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The team is headquartered in Concord, N.C.