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Eckrich and "The King" Richard Petty Surprise Navy Petty Officer and Family

Peter Theodoracopoulos Named Honorary Crew Member of Famed No. 43 Eckrich Team

LISLE, Ill., Aug. 29, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- With help from Eckrich, an American icon recognized an American hero today outside Atlanta.  NASCAR Hall of Famer "The King" Richard Petty surprised Navy Counselor 2nd Class (AW) Peter Theodoracopoulos and his family with the opportunity to be honorary crew members of his No. 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup race team this weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.  Petty gave the Theodoracopoulos family authentic Eckrich crew shirts and even asked Peter to practice his skills changing a tire.  Although Theodoracopoulos may not actually change the tires during the race, he will have the opportunity to help the pit crew as they prepare the car for Sunday's race.

Eckrich and "The King" Richard Petty Surprise Military Family

Along with waving the green flag to start the final round of Sprint Cup qualifying Friday night, Theodoracopoulos will get a ride in the pace car around one of the fastest tracks in NASCAR and then spend the afternoon with the team before watching the race from the pits of the No. 43 team. Petty also presented the family with a gift card for one-year of FREE groceries at Kroger, on behalf of Eckrich.

The surprise and weekend crew member experience is courtesy of Eckrich, sponsor of Richard Petty Motorsports and supporter of Operation Homefront, through its "Operation Inspiration" campaign, which supports and honors military families.  Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc., has given back to military families all summer with the help of Richard Petty and Richard Petty Motorsports.

"It's really important for us to give back to our military veterans and their families," said Petty.  "We're partnering with Eckrich to give the Theodoracopoulos family a once in a lifetime experience, but we're really saying 'thanks' for all they have done and given for us.  They are the special ones this weekend and hopefully it means a lot to them."

Eckrich is in its third year of partnership with Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit which provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. Eckrich has already donated more than $750,000 to the charity.

"It's thanks to partners like Eckrich and Richard Petty Motorsports that Operation Homefront is able to support military families when help is needed the most, like when the family car breaks down, a utility bill can't be paid, or when the unique demands of military service necessitate the help of others," said Tom Greer, vice president, communications and outreach for Operation Homefront.

"There is no way to better way to spend a race weekend then with 'The King' of NASCAR himself," said Charles Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group.  "We are proud to give Peter and his/her family this experience and we hope they enjoy their gift card at Kroger as well.  They are a tremendous family and outstanding representatives of those who sacrifice for all of us in service to our country."

The family is humbled by the surprise.

"I've never been to a NASCAR race, but I'm a big fan and was surprised to see Richard Petty," said Theodoracopoulos.  "I just can't believe our family was selected to be honored by Eckrich and Operation Homefront to receive this great experience.  This weekend will be an amazing time with the race team and I'm looking forward to it."

Richard Petty Motorsports, Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich Ford will race Sunday evening with live coverage on ESPN beginning at 7:30 p.m.

About Eckrich
Founded by Peter Eckrich in 1894, Eckrich has a rich heritage starting from a small meat market in Fort Wayne, Ind. Through it all, Eckrich meats have been recognized for their great taste and supreme quality, craftsmanship, care and pride. For more information, visit www.eckrich.com.

About John Morrell Food Group
With over a century and a half of experience, John Morrell Food Group brands have become respected and well known for providing premium-quality meat products to families across the United States. With products ranging from lunchmeat and franks to smoked sausage, bacon and pepperoni, the John Morrell Food Group is an important part of consumers' mealtimes. The John Morrell Food Group offers several national and regional brands including Armour®, Eckrich®, John Morrell®, Curly's®, Patrick Cudahy®, Carando®, Healthy Ones®, Margherita® Kretschmar® and LunchMakers®.

About Smithfield Foods
Smithfield Foods is a $14 billion global food company and the world's largest pork processor and hog producer. In the United States, the company is also the leader in numerous packaged meats categories with popular brands including Smithfield®, Eckrich®, Farmland®, Armour®, Cook's®, Gwaltney®, John Morrell®, Kretschmar®, Curly's®, Carando®, Margherita®, and Healthy Ones®. Smithfield Foods is committed to providing good food in a responsible way and maintains robust animal care, community involvement, employee safety, environmental, and food safety and quality programs. For more information, visit www.smithfieldfoods.com and www.smithfieldcommitments.com.

About Operation Homefront:
A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 2,500 volunteers with nationwide presence who provide emergency and other financial assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. Operation Homefront has provided assistance to thousands of military families since its inception in 2002. Recognized for superior performance by leading independent charity watchdog groups, nationally, 93 percent of total donations to Operation Homefront go directly to programs that provide support to our military families. For more information, go to www.OperationHomefront.net.

About Richard Petty Motorsports
A performance and marketing driven company, Richard Petty Motorsports, co-owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty and successful business entrepreneurs Andrew Murstein and Douglas Bergeron, is one of the most recognized brands in all of motorsports. With a history of over 200 wins and business partnerships with national and global leaders, today the race operation fields two teams in competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Aric Almirola pilots the famous No. 43 Ford Fusion with primary partners Smithfield Foods, U.S. Air Force, STP, GoBowling.com and Fresh From Florida and Marcos Ambrose drives the No. 9 Ford Fusion with primary partners STANLEY, DEWALT, Mac Tools and Twisted Tea. In addition, Dakoda Armstrong will compete in the No. 43 Ford Mustang with primary partners WinField and Fresh From Florida for his first full-time season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The team is headquartered in Concord, N.C.

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