BOLINGBROOK – Hall of Fame NASCAR Sprint Cup Driver Richard Petty raced to the aid of a local military family Thursday.
Partnering with Eckrich, one of Petty's racing sponsors that manufacturer sausages and meats, and nonprofit organization Operation Homefront and Wells Fargo Bank, Petty gave U.S. Marine Corps veteran James Wallace and his family the keys to a mortgage-free Bolingbrook home.
The new home came as a complete surprise to the unsuspecting family of three, who were just as shocked to see "The King" climb out of the No. 43 Eckrich race car.
"I think they were really surprised to see all of us in front of this house," Petty said. "But that was nothing compared to their shock when we handed over the keys and told them that this was their new home. I've been a part of giving away a lot of things in my lifetime, but I don't remember giving away a house. hat's a pretty big deal for anyone."
Petty wasn't done giving gifts, either.
The racing legend invited the Wallace family to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race this on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet and gave them Richard Petty Motor Sports and Eckrich crew uniforms and gift baskets.
The Wallaces will be honorary crew members of the No. 43 Eckrich Ford team at this weekend's race.
James Wallace is a corporal in the Marine Corps and has been deployed twice to Afghanistan. He said the new home will allow the family to continue to work in the Chicago area as well as live near their extended family.
"It hasn't sunk in yet," James Wallace said. "Being in the military, you move around, you rent houses, you get deployed. To now have a home of our own, a place where we can settle into and call our own, this means so much to me and my family. We are going to be able to make many, many memories here."
Part of its Operation Inspiration campaign, Eckrich has been working with Operation Homefront to support military men and women and their families in 2013. Thursday's event was the second time this year that Eckrich, Operation Homefront and Wells Fargo have partnered in mortgage free house giveaways for military families.