DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Throughout his life, there have been two things that have brought Luke Love's family together.
First, the military.
“[My] great grandfather flew hell cats in World War II, grandfather flew in Vietnam. Dad went rogue and went Army. I’m carrying on the legacy now in the Navy," Love, a YN2 E530 stationed at NAS Jax, explained.
“We all have our favorite drivers. We all have our favorite memories and experiences we can call upon."
But Luke's "experiences in NASCAR" might have everybody beat.
All thanks to his old high school buddy, Garrett Smithley.
Smithley, too, has family ties to the military; both his grandfathers served. His father is also a pilot, and Smithley has long had a love of flying.
Then there's NASCAR.
“I grew up two, three years old watching NASCAR,” Smithley smiled. "I didn't really get the racing bug as a driver until 15."
Yes, Garrett Smithley isn't just a "fan" of NASCAR: he's in his fourth season driving for JD Motor Sports on the XFINITY Series. He previously drove for the Richard Petty Driving Experience, moving to Charlotte soon after graduating high school.
But he hasn't forgotten where he came from -- and the people that helped him get there.
“[NASCAR drivers] pick a veteran or an active duty member to put on their car with their command [during Fourth of July Weekend at Daytona International]," Love said. "And so far, he’s chosen me for the last three years.”
It's not the first time Smithley has gotten Love involved on the NASCAR circuit: he took him on a test drive at Texas Motor Speedway when Love was stationed in Fort Worth. But there's something different about having your name on an actual, NASCAR car.
“I couldn’t be happier that number one, he chose me but number two, I get to be there and experience it with him," Love said.
Love has reciprocated the favor for Smithley.
“The last two or three years I’ve spent some time at the Jacksonville Navy Base. Last time it was the coolest thing: he got us into the simulators to fly the planes," Smithley smiled. "So he’s made some dreams come true for me. I’ve made some dreams come true for him.”