Butler’s name was prominently featured on car #10, driven by Aric Almirola.
Butler, a Special Forces Green Beret from Monticello, was killed in Afghanistan on August 16, 2017.
Guests of honor at the race were members of Butler’s family, including Aaron’s brother Quinn Butler and his wife Leesa and Aaron’s fiancé Alex Seagroves and her father Randall Seagroves.
NASCAR honored fallen soldiers and their families for the Memorial Day race. Hope for the Warriors hosted the group and several other Gold Star families.
The Butlers and Seagroves were given VIP “Hot” passes that allowed them to get right up to the track as the race started.
Just prior to the race, the group was shuttled down to the track, where they met with driver Aric Almirola. The car had been painted with a Memorial Day motif and featured Aaron’s name on the front windshield.
The patriotic theme of the car was designed around the memory of Aaron. Quinn reports that the racing team hopes NASCAR will approve the creation of an official die-cast replica of the car. If approved, the replica would be available for purchase.
Almirola made several tweets about the upcoming race in the days before the event. In one tweet, he wrote, “I’m humbled to race in honor of US Army Staff Sergeant Aaron Butler this weekend.
“Butler was part of the First Battalion 19th Special Forces unit, graduated from the Army Green Berets Special Forces Qualification course in January 2016, and died on August 16, 2017.”
Almirola started the race in ninth position and spent much of the race in fifth. Late in the race, the team took a chance on a delayed pit stop and dropped to 13th place.
The story of how Butler was selected for the honor is remarkable. It may not have occurred without the work of Charlie Tilton and Chad Haney, two men who had interacted with Staff Sgt Butler.
Quinn Butler said the two men went out of their way to see that Aaron was honored at the race.
In late 2015, Butler was in the final stages of completing the qualifications course to become a Green Beret. The course takes place at Fort Bragg, NC.
One of the last stages of the course is a simulated battle scenario involving civilian volunteers acting in various roles.
One of the volunteers was Chad Haney. Haney became involved, in part, because of his friendship with Sgt Major Charlie Tilton, who is involved in the Green Beret Qualifications Course.
Haney is from neighboring Charlotte, which is the home of NASCAR. For his day job, Haney is a car chief for the Stewart Haas Racing Team. Haney is one of several members of NASCAR pit crews who played a part in the training.
Haney told Quinn Butler that during the training, Aaron quickly “zeroed in on him” as one of the bad guys in the battle simulation.
Haney told Quinn that before he knew it, he was on the ground with Aaron’s foot on his chest.
Haney described Aaron as “very intense” and said he knew that Aaron was a remarkable individual.
Haney told Quinn that it hit him hard nearly two years later when he heard that Aaron Butler had been killed in action. At that time, they began the process to receive permission to put Aaron’s name on the car.
Haney told Quinn that he felt compelled to honor Aaron Butler and added, “I sleep better knowing there are men like Aaron protecting us.”
Butler said it was the first time that he and his wife had been to a NASCAR race, and added, “I think we are hooked!
“I did not expect the energy that is produced as the cars are fired up,” said Butler. “Oh my gosh, it was crazy!”
After the race, Almirola wrote a note to the family and said, “Thank you for letting me give Aaron one hell of a ride!”