In January 2011, some of the biggest names in IndyCar racing will be traveling to U.S. military bases in Southwest Asia and Europe to visit with U.S. troops as part of The Indy 500 Centennial Tour. The 10-day tour offers the Indy stars an opportunity to personally meet and connect with 10,000 to 15,000 troops as they travel in excess of 20,000 flight miles. The trip is coordinated through Armed Forces Entertainment, a Department of Defense agency, and the Morale Entertainment Foundation. Significant partners in this endeavor include the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IZOD IndyCar Series. The group, which currently includes Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser, Jr, Davey Hamilton and Martin Plowman will be leaving the Indianapolis area January 12, returning to the United States January 22. Although the Department of Defense has not released the exact itinerary and schedule, it is anticipated the group will travel to Landstuhl Medical Center and Ramstein Air Base in Germany as well as to military bases in Turkey, Spain, Qatar, Iraq, North Africa and the United Arab Emirates. In addition, the group will likely visit a currently-deployed U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf or North Arabian Sea.
Race announcer Jack Arute will participate as the moderator, leading panel discussions and presentations at the bases visited. In addition, Terry Angstadt, president of the IZOD IndyCar Series commercial division, will help to coordinate important tour details and travel with the group throughout the tour. A video crew from IMS Productions will be on hand to document the trip and allow fans to participate through daily video blogs throughout the tour.
“This is an incredible opportunity,” Angstadt said. “With 2011 marking the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500, it is very fitting for our first major event of the year to focus on honoring our troops and to show our appreciation for everything that they do. The IZOD IndyCar Series is keenly aware of the sacrifices of our men and women who wear the uniform of our country.”
Efforts are also being made to include the Indy Racing Experience two-seater race car for at least a portion of the ten-day tour. “I love the idea of running our cars at bases like Balad or Baghdad,” said Scott Jasek, a founding partner of Indy Racing Experience. “These cars can create a lifelong memory for the troops as well as a welcome temporary diversion from their day-to-day duties in a war zone.” Jasek is anticipated to join the tour along with partners Joe Kennedy and Jeff Sinden.
Morale Entertainment Foundation is the primary coordinator of the trip and has been working with Indy Car officials on securing tour participants, trip scheduling and logistics since early in the year. “This is a massive undertaking and we couldn’t even begin to put something like this together without the full cooperation of the IZOD Indy Car Series, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Department of Defense and other Pentagon agencies,” said Tom Lee, a Morale Entertainment Foundation board member. The group has hosted several similar tours in prior years including the Legends of Aerospace Tour (which included astronauts Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan and Jim Lovell). Morale Entertainment Foundation has also hosted three tours that featured select head football coaches from NCAA schools. One such tour concluded with a stop in the Oval Office and a press conference on the South Lawn with President George Bush.
Additional current drivers from the IZOD IndyCar Series may be added as tour participants once the 2010 racing season concludes in Miami on October 2.
Quicken Loans Carrier Classic
Drive The Racer
Mario Andretti Tour Diary
IndyCar's Greatest Names Team Up On Military Tour
GLOBE & MAIL
Mario Andretti Brings Indy To The Middle East
Signing Bottles Of Andretti Wine A Treat For Mario On Military Tour
INDYCAR: Indy 500 Centennial Tour Update…
More info on Indy 500 Centennial Tour
Indy 500 Centennial Tour Begins To Take Shape
Series News And Notes 2010-11-08