ERLANGER, Ky. — Howland native Sam Deeds was told by Crown Royal representatives that each of the five finalists in the “Your Hero’s Name Here” contest was going to be honored at parties on Thursday.
But when his favorite NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, Kurt Busch, drove up in a pace car and country music singer Justin Moore also showed up at Deeds’ party, he knew something was up.
Deeds was informed that he was the winner of the Crown Royal-sponsored contest, which gave the public the opportunity to vote for a veteran soldier, police officer, firefighter or first responder who has performed heroic deeds. The winner has the Brickyard 400 named in their honor.
The Samuel Deeds 400 will be held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 28.
While serving in the Marine Corps as a gunnery sergeant in Iraq in 2005, he saved the lives of two members of his platoon by running back to a rock pile to warn them about a possible improvised explosive device. Insurgents detonated the IED and Deeds was severely injured. He has since undergone more than 40 surgeries.
In 2008, while recuperating from hernia surgery, he was on vacation and dove into the water to save the life of a man who was being carried away by a riptide and directed a rescue squad to two other swimmers who were also imperiled.
Busch and girlfriend Patricia Driscoll honored him on Thursday, as did Moore, who performed a song of Deeds’ choice. Driscoll is the president and executive director of the Armed Forces Foundation, a nonprofit organization which provides assistance to current and former servicemen and women and their families.
“I chose Small Town USA,” said Deeds about his song selection. “After all, there were only around 80 people in my graduating class [from Penobscot Valley High School].”
Deeds is still reeling from the flurry of activity.
“It’s pretty cool. I don’t think it has really sunk in yet,” said Deeds, who was nominated for the honor by his wife, April. “I think I’ll be laying in bed and I’ll wind up saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got a race named after me!’ My Facebook has blown up and it’s the same way with my Twitter account.”
Deeds, wife April and close friend Josh Mount will attend Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway and Busch will honor Deeds by putting Deeds’ name on a sticker on his race car. The three will tour Busch’s hauler and will watch the race from Busch’s pit area.
Busch will be featured in TNT’s All-Access segment, which follows a team around for a week leading up to the race, and Deeds said he will get some air time.
His weekend at Indianapolis next month will see him drop the green flag for Friday qualifying, attend a Justin Moore performance with wife April, shake the hands of all the drivers during driver introductions, give the command to start the engines, ride a few laps in the pace car, present the trophy to the race winner and kiss the bricks with the winning driver and his team.
“I’ve got a month to gain my composure,” said a happy Deeds, a longtime NASCAR fan.
He said he is indebted to all of the people who voted for him.
“It’s greatly appreciated. I wish I could do something for everyone who voted for me,” said Deeds.
Deeds downplays his heroism and said he was grateful to Busch, Driscoll and Moore for their roles in honoring fallen heroes and calling attention to their plight.
Deeds pointed out that there will be a free download of Moore’s new song “Heroes” and $1 from every download will go to the Armed Forces Foundation. The website is CrownHeroesSong.com.