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LOCAL BUZZ | Navy officer could have NASCAR race named for him

All right, race fans, how cool would it be to have a major NASCAR event named for you? If U.S. Navy officer Rick Hudson of Gulfport gets his wish (and enough Internet votes,) the die-hard NASCAR fan will be attending the “Rick Hudson 400” this May at Richmond International Raceway in Virginia.

Hudson is one of five national finalists in a contest to honor a military hero with naming rights to a NASCAR Sprint Cup Race, sponsored by Crown Royal. Active duty Navy for 29 years, with 12 of those years at sea, Hudson was awarded one of the highest military honors, the Meritorious Service Medal, for his efforts following Hurricane Katrina while stationed in Gulfport. He is currently attached to a Special Forces unit, Special Boat Team 22, at Stennis.

Hudson, a Chief Warrant Officer 4, said he was speechless when he found out he was chosen from among more than 10,000 nominees. Each finalist was selected for their ability to demonstrate the core values of the military in performing selfless acts to become heroes, according to the contest's website.

“I'm the only Navy nominee, so to represent the Navy is great,” Hudson said. He is also the only active duty serviceman chosen. “What an honor.”

Hudson and a guest will be flown to the Daytona 500 on Thursday, where he and the other finalists will get to spend some time in the pits, meeting drivers and getting the VIP treatment before one of them is announced as the winner during a ceremony on Friday.

“The whole thing is really a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I would love to win, but if I don’t win, it’s still an amazing experience.”

To cast your vote, go to www.CrownRoyal.com, and click on the “Your Name Here Military 400: vote for your favorite hero now” tab. The contest ends Wednesday.

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