John Prazynski admits he’s not a huge NASCAR fan, but the Liberty Township resident will be glued to the action in the Coca Cola 600 on Sunday night.
That’s because his son Taylor, a Fairfield High School graduate who died at 20 fighting in Iraq in 2005, will be one of 40 fallen soldiers honored during the race by having their names emblazoned on the windshield of each car.
›› RELATED: Prazynski’s love of country remains
In Taylor’s case, his name will appear on the No. 17 car driven by Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
“NASCAR has been very, very military friendly, and we’re thrilled that he’s included,” John said. “The biggest fear any parent who loses a child has is that their child will be forgotten. So here’s NASCAR, Ricky Stenhouse, Honor and Remember, all doing something to make sure that doesn’t happen. I’m truly thankful for that. And not just for our child, but others as well.”
“It’s 12 years this month – May 9 – since we lost him, and it seems like yesterday and forever all at the same time,” John added. “Memorial Day Weekend is a great way to honor him and all the others.”
This won’t be the first time Taylor’s name has adorned a race car. Several years back the Armed Forces Foundation brought John to a race in Michigan and allowed him to place a sticker of Taylor’s name on the rear bumper of the No. 41 car driven by Kurt Busch.
And four years ago the family attended the Sam Deeds Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis. Deeds served with Taylor in the third battalion, 8th Marine regiment. He was honored with the race title as part of a program by sponsor Crown Royal that transfers naming rights to a deserving hero. Deeds secured tickets for the Prazynski family to help him celebrate the occasion.
“We’ve had so many blessings in these past 12 years with the people that we’ve met and things that we’ve gotten to see,” John said. “We know we would never have had these opportunities if it weren’t for Taylor. And I’d give every one of them back to have even another day with him.
Taylor will not be the only local connection to Sunday’s race as members of Team Fastrax, a Butler County skydiving unit, will soar into Charlotte Motor Speedway with the American flag, the Honor and Remember flag and the Purple Heart flag as part of pre-race festivities.
But once the green flag drops, John’s focus will be on Stenhouse, who has already driven the No. 17 car to victory once this season at Talladega.
“We’re just thrilled that Taylor’s included in this,” John said. “That honor is something that is beyond whatever I would expect. But if Ricky won, I would believe that divine intervention played a part because we have things that happen that we call ‘Taylor moments,’ just different little things that happen where you can’t help but look up and go, ‘OK, thanks.’
“We’re not making new memories with him as we all thought we would, his friends and the rest of our family,” John added. “So anybody who recognizes him, speaks his name, tells his story, or anything like that, it just allows his memory to live on. And that’s what we’re most thankful for.”