Kanaan/Johnson Car Racing To Keep People Alive

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 28 2021

Tony Kanaan and his Chip Ganassi Racing team are teaming up with vets for a great cause. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

INDIANAPOLIS – The whose-car-is-it banter between Tony Kanaan and Jimmie Johnson has drawn plenty of eyeballs to the No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda this month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Actually, it’s Chip’s car,” Kanaan noted during a Media Day news conference on Thursday morning.  “We don’t make any decisions anyway. We do whatever Chip says.”

Enter the American Legion, a non-traditional motorsports sponsor set to launch an unconventional initiative via the No. 48 during Sunday’s 105th running of the Indianapolis 500.

“Today the most critical issue facing veterans is something that is ominous and mysterious,” said Sergeant Major Michael P. Barrett, 17th Sergeant Major of the U.S. Marine Corps and an American Legion member. “Suicide is on the rise in America. The facts about veteran suicide are daunting. Upwards of 20 veterans take their lives every day. Our nation’s veterans are at a 50 percent greater risk of committing suicide than those who have never worn the cloth of this nation, the uniform.

“Additionally, these numbers don’t include data from the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health professionals have told us that the numbers could be much worse than the 22 a day.

“Folks, this is unacceptable. This is personal. It has to stop. As a Legionairre, I’m proud to be the one that makes the announcement that the American Legion is activating the full might of the nation’s largest veteran service organization to win the race _ the race to stop veteran suicide. To use a military phrase, we’re going to attack this issue on all fronts.

“First, we’re going to fight for legislation that will bring about real tangible solutions.

“Second, we’re going to leverage our vast footprint, over 12,000 American Legion facilities and communities across the country, to establish peer support programs.

“Third, we know that we must do more research, either on our own or with partnerships and will share our findings to help make an impactful change.

“To do this we are committed to continuing to raise awareness of this important issue and the money needed to make an impact.”

Sergeant Major Barrett introduced Pam Swan, vice president, military relations, for Veterans United Home Loans in Columbia, Mo. “Veterans United Home Loans is our first partner in this race to end veteran suicide,” Barrett said. “They have made a commitment of $2-million to support the American Legion towards this cause. Let’s not stop at $2-million.

The No. 48 American Legion Honda on track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“The Indy 500 is already the most famous race in motorsports. But today is a day that we are going to look back on in history and say, ‘It started here. It started with this race, the race to end veteran suicide.’ Help us save the lives of veterans who are either suffering from the emotional scars of war or other overwhelming stressful life experiences.” If you need to apply for your medical marijuana card in Florida, consult DocMJ if you need it counter that stress.

Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer for the American Legion, said the organization will debut a television spot Sunday featuring  a message from Johnson on veteran suicide. A seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, Johnson is three races into his rookie INDYCAR season exclusively on the schedule’s street and road-courses.

“As Sergeant Major alluded to, there’s multiple steps we’ll take from a legislative perspective, from a peer-to-peer support perspective,” Kessel said. “Our job with the racing program, what we’re doing here today is raising awareness of the initiative. That’s a big piece of it for us obviously around sort of the fundraising to help us put the programs in place, do those types of things.

“It will be an evolving process. There will be things that we haven’t even recognized yet as we start doing the diligence on this. But we’ve got great leadership in our D.C. office that spearheads our legislative efforts, works with Congress. We are poised to take this on.

“It’s going to be a heavy lift. We know that. But there’s no organization like the American Legion that can handle this.”

Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion, unveiled the patriotic-themed American Legion livery on the No. 48 during the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on May 2. That was the second of four oval-track events T.K. is contracted for with Ganassi in 2021. Kanaan will start fifth at IMS after qualifying last Sunday at an average speed of 231.032 mph. 

Sunday’s race will mark the return of fans to IMS after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted INDYCAR to move the 2020 event to Aug. 23 before an empty stadium. A crowd of up to 135,000 will be in attendance Sunday for pre-race ceremonies, including the playing of Taps to honor the nation’s war dead, and 200 laps of racing on the 2.5-mile oval. NBC will broadcast race-related activities live beginning at 11 a.m. (EDT).

“Really sort of the driving force about getting into motorsports is the audience of motorsports, right?” Kessel said. “There’s a tremendous amount of military and veterans that are passionate about the sport. We are certainly passionate about them, getting them the care and compensations on the veteran side they deserve. We couldn’t be represented by more of a class organization than Chip Ganassi Racing.

“We couldn’t think of a better place to do this than here at Indianapolis on Memorial Day weekend. For us Memorial weekend starts on Friday, which is Poppy Day. All of us here wearing poppies. It’s a time to honor the fallen and support the living. That’s what Poppy Day is all about.

Tony Kanaan prepares to strap into the No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing car at Indy.

“Stopping and preventing veteran suicide. This is the biggest issue facing this generation of veterans, including Vietnam veterans, then post-9/11 veterans, as well. We are going to be the tip of the spear on this initiative to lead it into the next decade, however long it takes for us to wrestle this.

“We are not mental health experts, but we know how to pull the right people together. We do have a tremendous peer-to-peer support network with our 12,000 posts, our millions of members. That’s a place for folks to go and join and have common interests and align that way.”

Ganassi said announcing this program on Memorial Day weekend is a perfect tribute. “It’s veterans and how I was brought up respecting veterans and revering veterans, employing veterans, honoring them in what they’ve done for our country,” Ganassi said. “I don’t mean to go off-script, but we have this sort of view of what the American Legion is. When I was a child, I didn’t really know what the American Legion was.

“Until recently I thought it was a little smoky bar somewhere with some old guys in it just smoking cigars and cigarettes talking about the war or whatever, only to find out and learn that it was the American Legion that authored the G.I. Bill that created the middle-class in the United States. It was the American Legion that started the VA (Veterans Administration). It was the American Legion that led the charge against agent orange and lobbied for taking care of the Vietnam veterans coming back.

“Each Memorial Day the teams have red, white and blue cars. I’m proud to say that our American Legion car is red, white and blue all the time. I think that says a lot about what this program is about. I think we obviously have a driver here that can win the Indianapolis 500.

“Over the years we’ve represented a lot of big companies. It’s been a great thing to represent multi-national corporations that have hundreds of thousands of people. I couldn’t be more proud to be here representing the Legion, representing its 12 million members, representing its 12,000 posts.

“Memorial Day is to honor the veterans that gave their life for our country. I think that’s an important point. But for God sakes, we need to stop veterans taking their own life when they come home. Let’s work towards stopping it.”

Kanaan, a native of Brazil, has emerged as one of the most popular and respected domestic open-wheel drivers of this generation. In addition to his 2013 victory in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” Kanaan won the 2004 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

“Look at me, I mean, I’m a foreigner. I came from Brazil,” said Kanaan, 46. “I lived the American dream. My kids are American. My wife is American. I became an American citizen six years ago.

“It’s an honor to be part of this team. I got the call from Chip last year. I couldn’t believe it. They actually wouldn’t tell me who my sponsor was going to be for the 500, it was a surprise. It’s awesome.

“Like Chip, I became more aware of many things that the American Legion does. All I can say to all the veterans, we’re ready to fight this. We’re ready to help the American Legion. Chip told me to go win the race on Sunday, and I think it’s a good thing to have, a good thing to start a program like this.

“Every time I’m in that car, I’m proud to represent them. It has our nation’s colors. I’ll be fighting. Trust me, I’ll be fighting with everything I can to give Chip and the No. 48 team and the American Legion a win.”

Sergeant Major Barrett expanded on the personal element of the initiative. “As a Battalion Sergeant Major, two deployments in Iraq, I watched 21 of my Marines die to IEDs, ambush, sniper fire,” said Barrett, a Marine for four decades. “Over 300 wounded in two simple deployments. Thirteen months in Afghanistan as a Regional Command Sergeant Major for all of Helmand Province, Nimruz Province. Over 250 killed under my watch, over 2,500 wounded.

“To come home, to have three of my friends that I’ve known for decades _ who I served with in the United States, who I served with overseas, and who I served with in combat on multiple deployments _ when I learned that they took their lives, with each notification I was floored. It felt like somebody was standing on my chest and with the heel of their boot they were stomping my guts out. I’m sitting here right now shaking just recalling all of it.

“It was heartbreaking. It’s gut-wrenching. I can’t even imagine what their families were feeling and what they were going through.

“Join Team 48 at Legion.org/48 and give. If you’re a veteran, join the American Legion team and help us win the race to end veteran suicide. For all those veterans who are looking for someone to talk with, I say open the door, just open the door to one of the 12,000 American Legion posts all across this wonderful nation. We are here. We care. We understand. Let us help.”


Final qualifying results/starting lineup for the 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge NTT IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (9) Scott Dixon-(W), Dallara-Honda, 2:35.3837 (231.685 mph)
2. (26) Colton Herta, Dallara-Honda, 2:35.4034 (231.655)
3. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Dallara-Chevy, 2:35.5000 (231.511)
4. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 2:35.5047 (231.504)
5. (48) Tony Kanaan-(W), Dallara-Honda, 2:35.8229 (231.032)
6. (10) Alex Palou, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.1039 (230.616)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay-(W), Dallara-Honda, 2:36.1827 (230.499)
8. (06) Helio Castroneves-(W), Dallara-Honda, 2:36.2804 (230.355)
9. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.3054 (230.318)
10. (27) Alexander Rossi-(W), Dallara-Honda, 2:35.8132 (231.046)
11. (18) Ed Jones, Dallara-Honda, 2:35.8148 (231.044)
12. (5) Pato O’Ward, Dallara-Chevy, 2:35.9360 (230.864)
13. (51) Pietro Fittipaldi-(R), Dallara-Honda, 2:35.9481 (230.846)
14. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.0168 (230.744)
15. (30) Takuma Sato-(W), Dallara-Honda, 2:36.0417 (230.708)
16. (29) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.1395 (230.563)
17. (3) Scott McLaughlin-(R), Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.1435 (230.557)
18. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.1680 (230.521)
19. (47) Conor Daly, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.2314 (230.427)
20. (60) Jack Harvey, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.3922 (230.191)
21. (2) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.4735 (230.071)
22. (1) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.5354 (229.980)
23. (45) Santino Ferrucci, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.5563 (229.949)
24. (86) Juan Pablo Montoya-(W), Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.5961 (229.891)
25. (98) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.6089 (229.872)
26. (22) Simon Pagenaud-(W), Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.6732 (229.778)
27. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.6964 (229.744)
28. (25) Stefan Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.7166 (229.714)
29. (59) Max Chilton, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.9195 (229.417)
30. (4) Dalton Kellett, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.6717 (228.323)
31. (24) Sage Karam, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.0982 (229.156)
32. (12) Will Power-(W), Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.2905 (228.876)
33. (16) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.6504 (228.353)

NTT IndyCar Series point standings: 1, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 176; 2, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, 163; 3, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 148; 4, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP, 146; 5, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 137; 6, Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing, 135; 7, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 130; 8, Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske, 123; 9, Will Power, Team Penske, 118; 10, Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport, 117.

Note _ All cars use the fourth generation NTT IndyCar Series chassis (Dallara IR-12) with universal IR-18 aerodynamic bodywork, Chevrolet or Honda twin-turbocharged V-6 engines and Firestone Firehawk tires.

(W) _Denotes Indianapolis 500 winner

(R) _ Denotes Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year candidate


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 28 2021
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