IndyCar drivers take pit stop at Ramstein

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Scott Saldukas
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Former IndyCar racing rivals teamed up to visit service members here during a 10-day tour that will bring them through Europe and Southwest Asia to boost morale of service members serving overseas.

Mario Andretti, Al Unser Jr. and Larry Foyt are a few who have visited service members here at the contingency aeromedical staging facility and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center during the Armed Forces Entertainment tour.

While the members of the nine-person racing team have a combined six Indy 500 racing titles, the champions put competition aside and came together for the same cause.

"It's always an incredible experience, especially when you visit hospitals with injured Soldier, Sailors, Airmen and Marines," said Mario Andretti, a former IndyCar driver. "One good thing that we know is our country has an appreciation for our military, and that is unprecedented. The military knows they have full support, and I think that is important."

Even though it is a moving experience for the drivers, the patients were excited to see the racing legends.

"I thought the visit was real nice," said Spc. Robert Yates, a CASF patient. "I got to see some of the people I grew up knowing and seeing my whole life. It was unexpected and was a good relief to have them come visit us before we go home to see our families."

For Specialist Yates, the visit was especially important since he has been a fan of IndyCar racing for a long time.

"My mother got me into racing," he said. "She is the biggest fanatic, and to see some of the names like Al Unser and Mario Andretti is really good. It almost brought tears to my eyes just to see them because they are legends and champions."

Tech. Sgt. Robert Johnson, a wounded Airman who is currently a patient at LRMC, also had an opportunity to meet the racers and expressed his gratitude for their quick stop.

"It's great for them to stop by," he said. "To see people who are public figures come out is great. It is a great benefit for us. Their visit lets us know that it's not just your immediate family that cares and support us out there."

Along with the former champions, former IndyCar drivers Davey Hamilton and Sarah Fisher, Indy Lights driver Martin Plowman and television announcers Jack Arute and Cameron Haven also visited the wounded warriors.

"I hope the troops take away our sincere good will, that's our message," Mr. Andretti said. "We want to remind them that there is an infinite appreciation for the sacrifice that they have made, and Godspeed to all of them."