Mayo Clinic doctors performing ‘God Bless America’ for Indy 500 special

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Sunday’s “Back Home Again” special on NBC will feature a “God Bless America” tribute performed by two Mayo Clinic doctors to raise awareness for COVID-19 support.

The rendition by Dr. Elvis Francois (vocals) and Dr. William Robinson (piano) will help support The Fight Is In Us,” which encourages those who recovered from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to donate potentially life-saving plasma for research into treatments.

The duo has lifted the spirits of Mayo Clinic patients for many years with their performances.

Their rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” recently went viral on Instagram, and their “Music is Medicine” EP benefited the Center of Disaster Philanthropy COVID-19 Response Fund.

“Back Home Again,” which will feature host Mike Tirico and 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and runner-up Alexander Rossi recounting last year’s thrilling race, will air Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBC.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 20, 2020 – Viewers across the globe will be treated to a poignant and stirring rendition of “God Bless America” during Sunday’s “Indy 500 Special: Back Home Again” airing at 2 p.m. EDT on NBC. The performance by Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgery residents Dr. Elvis Francois and Dr. William Robinson will provide a fitting tribute to front-line workers and help support The Fight Is In Us, an important campaign to encourage survivors of COVID-19 to donate potentially life-saving plasma for research into COVID-19 treatments.

Dr. Francois and Dr. Robinson have performed for patients at Mayo Clinic for several years, delivering emotional support alongside medical treatment to those in need. They recently uploaded their version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” to Instagram, featuring Dr. Francois’ soaring vocals and Dr. Robinson on the piano, as a tribute to fellow professionals across all industries working tirelessly to combat COVID-19. The post struck a chord with social media users worldwide, quickly going viral. After being noticed by executives at Big Machine Label Group, the pair recorded a special EP, “Music is Medicine,” with proceeds going to the Center of Disaster Philanthropy COVID-19 Response Fund.

“We’re honored to be part of this special broadcast from racing’s most iconic venue,” Dr. Francois said. “Seeing so many of my colleagues and front-line workers across the country come together in the midst of such challenging times has been inspiring. This performance is dedicated to everyone who keeps showing up in the fight against COVID-19.

“Our performance is very much about hope,” Dr. Robinson said. “It’s important to remember that we’re all in this together and we’re all working tirelessly toward the same goal. Despite the current hardships, there is definitely reason for optimism, and we hope that our rendition of ‘God Bless America’ will reflect this mindset.”

The doctors’ appearance on Sunday’s broadcast will also help draw attention to a new campaign in the battle against COVID-19: The Fight Is In Us. Mayo Clinic is a founding member of this effort to set up a seamless and convenient experience for the donation of convalescent plasma from COVID-19 survivors. This plasma can be used to treat people today and create medicines to treat patients in the future. To learn more about this vital campaign generated by leading health and life sciences organizations, visit: www.thefightisinus.org starting Sunday, May 24.

For more than 100 years, the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race presented by Gainbridge has taken place over Memorial Day weekend. This year’s race was originally scheduled for Sunday, May 24, but was rescheduled to Sunday, Aug. 23, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This Sunday, viewers will be treated to a special broadcast on NBC that chronicles the 2019 race, featuring an epic duel between Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud and Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi. The program will be narrated by NBC’s Mike Tirico and will incorporate specially produced pre-race moments such as the performance by Dr. Francois and Dr. Robinson.

IndyCar: Tony Kanaan’s ‘Last Lap’ begins at Texas Motor Speedway

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The streak lives for Tony Kanaan. At least for one more race.

With Kanaan running only ovals during his farewell IndyCar season in 2020 – which has been dubbed the “Last Lap” – his record streak of 317 consecutive Indy-car starts was to end with the season opener March 15 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Fate had other plans. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced the postponement of St. Pete (now the season finale in October) amid the shutdown of American sports.

IndyCar has made multiple changes to its 2020 schedule since then, and as a result, Kanaan is getting an opportunity to extend his “Ironman” streak.

The 2004 NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner is set for career start No. 318 on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway – driving the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet alongside the team’s new full-season driver, Charlie Kimball, in the No. 4 Chevy.

“A lot of people ask me how I coped with the delay of the season,” Kanaan said Monday in an IndyCar Zoom news conference. “To be honest, I was mentally prepared already because my first real race was going to be the [Indy] 500. My mind was already set for May.

“I only really had to delay, what, a couple of weeks from what I was originally scheduled to do. For me, I think it wasn’t as hard as for the other guys that were already in St. Pete, ready to go.”

But while his mindset is locked in, Kanaan notes that he’s been out of a race car for eight months. In fact, as of Monday, he hadn’t sat in a car fitted with the new Aeroscreen cockpit protection system.

However, he is no stranger to the wild and woolly action at Texas. Ditto for his new-slash-old teammate, Kimball: The two competed together at Chip Ganassi Racing from 2014-17.

That experience is something A.J. Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt is grateful to have on his side.

“Going into this race, it’s huge,” Foyt said. “Especially with the one-day show, everything is accelerated, and going to a big track like Texas, having a guy like Charlie sit on the pole there [in 2017], knows his way around there, and obviously TK is very good there, as well.

“It’s a little bit of peace of mind for sure. Anything can happen, but the engineering group has been working really well together. We’re really hopeful we’re going to unload and get these guys some good cars out of the box. That’s the plan.”

Speaking of Kimball, the Californian is set to revive his full-time career in the sport after making just seven starts last season with Carlin.

He’s enjoyed his unexpected free time at home with his wife, Kathleen, and their two children, Hannah and newborn son Gordon, who arrived in March. But he’s grateful to get back in the car – and to accompany Tony on his ‘last lap.’

“We’re friends off the track,” Charlie said. “We train together. He’s gotten me addicted to riding a bicycle on a computer game, but also our wives are friends, and I think our families when we can get together and the kids can play, I think they’re going to interact really well. I’m excited for his daughter Nina to spend some time with our daughter.

“And the experience – I mean, he’s taught me things and I’ve learned a lot from him about how to restart on ovals and what you can and what you should and shouldn’t do and what he still does. That experience is invaluable to me to continue to learn and get better. I just feel really honored to be his teammate during his last lap, especially when we get back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500.”

The NTT IndyCar Series season begins Saturday night from Texas Motor Speedway with the Genesys 300 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. The race will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.