Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts funeral for slain police officer

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Photo
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The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is more than just a race track and sporting venue. It is a vital part of the fabric of the community in this uniquely Midwestern metropolis.

Breann Leath was even more important, serving as an officer for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. The 24-year-old was investigating a domestic violence incident on April 9, when she was gunned down by an assailant. Her death has been a shock to a city already in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leath’s funeral was held Thursday at IMS, in what’s believed to be the first time it had been the backdrop for such a somber event in its 110-year history. In the past, it has held memorial services for race drivers and other members of the racing community.

Members of the IMPD and additional law enforcement agencies completely lined the historic 2.5-mile oval with their squad cars, creating a stirring visual tribute to their fallen colleague.

Leath’s family, fellow officers and community were there to mourn her loss. Officers watched a stream of the funeral on their personal devices, then stood by their cars to salute Leath as her procession completed a ceremonial lap. Under normal circumstances, the funeral would take place in a closed-door arena, but these modifications were made to help maintain social distancing and limit the number of people in one place.

Leath was remembered as a loving and devoted mother to her son, an officer with genuine dedication and commitment to the community that echoed throughout the IMPD, and for having a smile that could light up a room.

Because of the ongoing CDC restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, no public participation was possible during the funeral services, and no public visitation took place.

“While a global pandemic may keep us physically separated today, the sun rose this morning on a city that has come together as one, united in admiration for our fallen hero,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett after removing his face mask, black and striped with a thin blue line. “Here at this track and across this city, her brothers and sisters in blue stand ready to keep watch over her legacy.”

Leath, a 2014 graduate of Southport High School, was a beat officer on the city’s east side. She was previously a member of the Indiana National Guard and worked as a corrections officer at the Indiana Women’s Prison.

“Breann accomplished and gave more in her 24 years than most could ever hope to in a lifetime,” Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said at the service, his hands protected by latex gloves, “wearing not one, not two, but three uniforms, all honorably.”

Following the funeral service at IMS, Leath was laid to rest at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.

Community members are invited to contribute to The Breann Leath Memorial Fund via donation or by purchasing official apparel at shopIMPD.com. Memories, photos, notes, condolences or art made in her honor can also be sent to OfficerLeathLegacy@indy.gov to be compiled for her family.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.