LONG BEACH, California – Andretti Autosport is extending its mission to assist the military by partnering with the Crown Royal Wall of Gratitude that allows race fans to honor their heroes.
The initiative is part of Crown Royal’s “Live Generously and Life Will Treat You Royally” campaign. Fans of legal drinking age may submit names of their military heroes to crownyourhero.com. Crown Royal will select 31,680 names and have each engraved on a five-inch gold plaque in time for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 27. If placed side by side, the plaques would equal the 2.5-mile distance of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
Andretti Autosport drivers Marco Andretti and Alexander Rossi placed the first two names on the Crown Royal Wall of Gratitude during a ceremony Friday at the racetrack that plays host to Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
“I’m just honored to do it. We’re lucky to have this platform through Crown Royal and we’re able to give the military the recognition they deserve,” said Andretti, driving the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda this weekend. “The timing’s great being Memorial Day (weekend), but they deserve (recognition) every day all year round. There’s a lot of eyes on us at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so the most that we can do, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Andretti Autosport last year began its Military to Motorsports program, trying to assist veterans in locating jobs within the motorsports industry. Rossi drove No. 27 MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda to a third-place finishes on April 7 at ISM Raceway.
“I think the No. 1 thing is in the name and it’s ‘gratitude,’” said Rossi. “And something that’s very unique for us as racing drivers and teams is that we have a platform to reach a lot of people and that’s a very fortunate position to be in.
“Being able to take an opportunity to thank the men and women who have served and who are currently serving is a huge thing for us because, especially as we go into May and Memorial Day weekend in the biggest race in all of motorsports, there’s a lot of attention that goes on us for a lot of good things,” Rossi added.
Stephen Wilson, Crown Royal’s director of whisky engagement, presented the wall at the Andretti Autosport hospitality facility at Long Beach.
“Crown Royal has always had a long relationship with the men and women of our nation’s military,” said Wilson. “For all of us, we always have felt that, when you serve this country, it’s one of the most selfless and most generous things a person can do, so to be able to create the Wall of Gratitude as a small token of thanks, it makes perfect sense.”
Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti would like to see the program continue past May.
“I’m hoping we can grow it, I hope this is just the infancy of it,” he said. “They’re talking about getting 31,680 plaques. Well, I’m hoping eventually we get it into the millions where it should be. We’ll see what happens, but this is our first step.”
Veach continues legacy of Indy car drivers visiting Long Beach hospital
The Long Beach Indy car race has drawn the names of many of the greats over the years. So, too, has Racing For Kids’ annual visit to Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Long Beach.
Racing For Kids has been arranging for race drivers to visit young patients at the hospital on Long Beach race week since 1990. On Thursday, Verizon IndyCar Series driver Zach Veach and sports car driver Christina Nielsen met with several dozen patients in two playrooms and on bed-to-bed visits.
The two added their names to a list of prominent figures who have visited the hospital. That list includes Al Unser Jr., Jimmy Vasser, Kyle Petty and Eddie Lawson, along with movie, sports and entertainment figures such as Cameron Diaz, William Shatner, Patrick Dempsey, Adam Corolla, Rick Schroeder and John Elway.
Veach and Nielsen personally engaged each child on the two-hour visit, answering questions and talking about the weekend racing excitement on the challenging Long Beach street course. They also signed autographs, handed out racing memorabilia and posed for photos.
Racing For Kids arranges visits with children in every INDYCAR market.