Sarah Fisher, the first female IndyCar driver/team owner, joins drivers Mario Andretti, Al Unser Jr., Johnny Rutherford, Davey Hamilton, Larry Foyt, Martin Plowman, announcer Jack Arute and IZOD IndyCar Series spokesmodel Cameron Haven left this week on a 10-day goodwill tour of U.S. bases in Europe and the Middle East.
Departing from New York, the Indy 500 Centennial Tour aims to increase troop morale by bringing the excitement of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Indianapolis 500 directly to more than 10,000 service men and women at military bases and on an aircraft carrier at sea. The team will give motivational talks and participate in autograph and Q & A sessions, meet and greets, and photo opportunities.
In addition to receiving thousands of gifts, several lucky troops will experience the thrill of being an IndyCar passenger in the specially modified Dallara two-seater that is accompanying the tour. The troops will get the rare opportunity to face the g-forces and encounter the speeds involved in IndyCar racing as they are driven by Andretti, Unser and Rutherford.
The Tour is organized by the Morale Entertainment Foundation and the Pentagon's Armed Forces Entertainment agency, with support from the IZOD IndyCar Series, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis Racing Experience.
"The troops serving downrange are always happy to get a taste of home," said Lt Col USAF Kathleen Weatherspoon, Chief, Armed Forces Entertainment, who is working with Morale Entertainment to finalize the details for the tour. "And nothing says 'America' more than bringing these amazing drivers to share their stories and thank our men and women in uniform. The constant training, required discipline, and danger these drivers experience in their chosen profession directly resonate with our military members." Armed Forces Entertainment is the official Department of Defense agency providing entertainment for American troops stationed around the world.
The IZOD IndyCar Series is committed to supporting America's troops, says ICS CEO Randy Barnard. "The camouflage paint scheme on the National Guard Panther car is seen by millions in person and on TV and underscores our commitment to our troops," he said. "We donate tickets to National Guard members wherever we race, and support visits by our drivers to domestic and foreign military bases."
Tour sponsors and partners include The Pantry Inc., parent of Kangaroo Express convenience stores, Honda, IZOD, the Indy Racing Experience, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the IZOD IndyCar Series, espnW and Track Chic. DHL, the "Specialists in International," is donating its shipping services to speed the delivery of tour materials to Europe and the Middle East.
The Morale Entertainment Foundation has been taking inspirational celebrities to visit U.S. troops since 2008. They have taken three groups of NCAA football coaches and more recently five Legends of Aerospace - Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan, plus famed test pilot Bob Gilliland and Vietnam War USAF ace Steve Ritchie. "We enjoy the opportunity to provide a boost to our brave men and women abroad," said Morale Entertainment Foundation tour director, Thomas M. Lee.