The Indy 500 centennial Tour was a 10-day goodwill trip to Europe and the Middle East with the goal of boosting the morale of more than 10,000 service men and women the group will meet.The team, which included Indianapolis 500 winners Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford and Al Unser Jr. plus Indy 500 veterans Sarah Fisher, Davey Hamilton, Larry Foyt and Firestone Indy Lights race winner Martin Plowman, gave motivational talks and participated in autograph and Q & A sessions, meet and greets and photo opportunities. Below, Sarah Fisher reflects upon the tour:
They told me at the beginning, that I would be sad to go home even though I would miss my spouse, family and friends, they were right. The past ten days have been the most incredible experience I have been a part of. To say the least, I will be forever grateful for our military and their dedication to keeping us safe. Three troops were in the hallway at the airport as I was making my way to the Indianapolis gate, and I couldn’t help notice the difference in my gratefulness towards them just seeing them on their way. Yes, this trip has changed my life.
Mario Andretti said the whole tour that being in the military was the noblest profession. I couldn’t agree more.
The impact of being a part of the Indianapolis 500 Centinneal Tour in the Middle East, has made a massive difference in the respect and thankfulness for the men and women who serve on behalf of our country. You really think you get it, know what lies ahead for them, but when you see it up close and personal it delivers a new dimension of understanding.
I have been asked to identify my most favorite memory from the trip and after thinking intensively about what that would be, I am left with a much broader perspective. The memory I have is landing in Balad, my heart racing, not knowing what it was going to be like as we donned our body armor and helmet. What was it going to look like when they lowered the rear door on the C130. Everyone on the tour was quiet. Surely I am not the only one who was a bit nervous. Knowing that we were going to be in pretty good hands, and still having my heart race, what do our troops feel like? It has to be a level of apprehension beyond the starting grid of the Indy 500.
Every hand I shook this week, had shaken all on its own at some point during their own tour. The Indy 500 can be scary, intimidating, but not compared to the environment our soldiers voluntarily commit themselves to.
The confidence in their teams was also another wide spread perspective. At 230 mph, I trust whole heartedly that my teammates will have my car 100%. The same applies to each soldier standing side by side in their mission. Learning about the F16 crew and what it takes to run that squadron rin Balad, I was introduced to one of their “crew chiefs.” His duties resembled our own crew chief identically. Although his name was on the aircraft, maybe we can make room on ours somewhere from here on out… Seeing the Joint Base of Balad, brought home the reality and seriousness of their surroundings.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank our airmen, soldiers, for taking the vow to protect our country, to protect our freedom and give me the hope that knows they will come home safe.
Indy 500 Centennial Tour Fast Facts:
- Total air mileage traveled on this tour was 16,600 miles
- 2-seat car was driven at four locations: Bahrain, Incirlik Turkey, RAF Mildenhall and RAF Honington (British Base) in the UK
- Total rides given to troops on entire tour were 254
- People traveling on the tour included 27 people with Morale Entertainment group and 10 Air Force crew members on the KC-135 for a total of 37
- The tour visited troops at 7 bases in Germany, Bahrain, Joint Base Balad – Iraq, Turkey and the United Kingdom and visited the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier (that has 4,900 total personnel sailing aboard)
- Members of the tour also supported a US State Department request at Cukurova University in Adana, Turkey.
Want more on the Indianapolis 500 Centennial Troops Tour?
Review the IndyCar.com running update from the tour here.
See more photos from the Troops Tour here.