The name of Aaron M. Kenefick, an area Marine who died in Afghanistan in 2009, is being emblazoned on a car in a NASCAR race this weekend.
Kenefick’s name will appear on the windshield of Kyle Busch’s No. 18 car during the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Kenefick, a gunnery sergeant who grew up in Amherst, was one of five Americans killed by Taliban forces on Sept. 8, 2009, in an ambush in Gangjal village in Afghanistan.
Normally, the windshield of each Sprint Cup Series car displays the driver’s last name.
Showing Kenefick’s name is part of the “NASCAR: An American Salute” campaign, in which each car will have the name of a serviceman killed in action. The campaign, which started this weekend, runs through the July 4 weekend.
Kenefick, 30, and the others killed in the ambush had been embedded as trainers with the Afghan Border Patrol and Afghan Army.
In addition to Kenefick, the other Americans who died were 1st Lt. Michael Johnson and Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson of the Marines; Navy Hospital Corpsman James Layton; and Army Sgt. First Class Kenneth Westbrook. Eight Afghan Army soldiers and an interpreter also were killed in the ambush.
In the years after his death, Kenefick’s mother, Susan L. Price, raised questions to Department of Defense officials about the circumstances surrounding her son’s death.
The Defense Department determined that “inadequate and ineffective” decisions by command officers led to the deaths. Two Army officers were reprimanded in the case.
One of Kenefick’s fellow Marines, Dakota Meyer, earned the Medal of Honor for his actions on the battlefield. Meyer defied orders and tried to rescue those who were trapped, and ended up saving three dozen American and Afghan troops.
Meyer got his own race car in 2012 and had Kenefick’s name, and the names of the four others who died, affixed to his car’s hood, according to ESPN.com.
The Coca-Cola 600 starts at 6:15 p.m. Sunday and will be televised on Fox.