Skip to comments.IndyCar Zooms National Guard Into New Racing Dimension
Posted on 07/02/2008 5:19:36 PM PDT by SandRat
| ARLINGTON, Va., July 2, 2008 A new relationship with IndyCar promises to propel National Guard recruiting forward and give citizen-soldiers and airmen a more personal interest in another sport.
Weve been involved with NASCAR for a number of years, said Maj. Gen. Ray Carpenter, special assistant to the director of the Army National Guard. This is the next step in racing for us. Its a great, great opportunity for us to showcase our National Guard capability in a different forum. Its a great, great step forward.
The benefit for us is that it provides another venue for us to tell the National Guard story and reach out to a target population.
Driven by Vitor Meira for Panther Racing team owner John Barnes, the Dallara IR car has a 3.5-liter Honda Indy V-8 engine and runs on ethanol.
Meira said a visit to wounded Guard members at Brooke Army Medical Center, in San Antonio, was the moment he truly understood what the National Guard stands for.
Im gaining so much from every soldier I meet, he said. Its something very different than other sponsors. We pass the message on -- a message of honor, a message to be proud and stand for the great things this country stands for. Im really honored to drive the National Guard car. The soldiers influence me. If I drove as good as they perform their duty every day, I would be in the winners circle every time.
Meira sees common ground between the training he must do and the training soldiers do. Training is everything in life, he said. Soldiers and the Guard are a statement of that. The amount that they train and how well they perform their duty is a statement that training is everything.
Adrenaline and the spirit of competition are among Meiras driving forces. Its my way of life, he said. Its not work. Its something I was doing as a kid something I would pay to do and now get paid to do.
The National Guard was the cars primary sponsor at Richmond International Raceway on June 28 and is also scheduled to be on July 6 at Watkins Glen International in New York, on Aug. 9 at the Kentucky Speedway and on Sept. 7 at the Chicagoland Speedway.
Panther Racing hosts up to 200 Guard members at each race. Owner John Barnes is in his 42nd year of racing, and he said hes come full circle: The racing driver who was his fathers best friend and best man and who inspired Barnes to enter the world of the track himself was a National Guardsman.
Now to have the National Guard support my team is unbelievable, he said, something I never dreamed of.
Sometimes race car drivers are called heroes, Barnes said.
The true heroes work in this building, and they work at the Guard units across the country, whether its taking care of floods or tornadoes or whatever, Barnes said. Every day, 17 governors call the Guard to activate them for something or other, and to know that we have that support as American citizens is just incredible. Its the framework of our country, and its an honor to be a part of that.
Barness car has 18 races scheduled in the 2008 IndyCar series, including appearances in Australia, Canada and Japan.
Initiatives like this have contributed to the Army National Guard going from 330,000 end strength in June of 2005 to 358,000-plus today, Carpenter said. Theres not been any single silver bullet here. Its taken a collection of NASCAR racing, of what were doing here with Indy racing and all of the rest of the things weve got out there -- the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program [and] Active First -- have all come together and made this happen.
(Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves with the National Guard Bureau.)
Very cool...Now how about them sponsoring a “little-guy”?