American Legion using Indy 500 sponsorship to raise awareness about veteran suicide

American Legion veteran suicide
James Black/IndyCar

INDIANAPOLIS — The American Legion launched a new campaign around ending veteran suicide, using its sponsorship of the No. 48 Dallara-Honda driven by Tony Kanaan in Sunday’s Indy 500 to drive awareness.

Friday marked National Poppy Day, which is “about honoring the fallen by assisting and remembering and serving and supporting the living,” said Sergeant Major Michael Barrett, who took part in a news conference Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Kanaan, team owner Chip Ganassi and American Legion chief marketing officer Dean Kessel.

Noting that Poppy Day commemorates the start of Memorial Day observations, Barrett said the same principles apply to solving the issue of veteran suicide.

105TH INDY 500 INFO: Start times, schedules, TV, stats, historical details about the 2021 race

STARTING LINEUPThe 33-car starting grid for the 2021 Indy 500

“Saying ‘we remember’ and ‘thank you for your service’ is just not enough,” said Michael P. Barrett, American Legion member and 17th Sergeant Major of the United States Marine Corps. “The best way we can honor those who gave their lives to this country is to support and protect those who served alongside them. I’m talking about the men and women who saw their friend take their last breath in battle or experience one of the other horrors of war that they now must live with for the rest of their life. I’m here today to ask you – no, I am imploring you – to honor our nation’s veterans by joining us in giving everything we’ve got to end veteran suicide.”

During a video played at the news conference, No. 48 co-driver Jimmie Johnson noted that upward of 20 veterans die by suicide daily.

In launching the campaign, Veterans United Home Loans presented a check to The American Legion for $2 million that will be used to expand programs and opportunities for Legionnaires to obtain peer support training and distribute important mental health and wellness tools and resources through The American Legion infrastructure.

The American Legion plans to focus will be on lobbying for legislation, implementing programs and training to strengthen peer support networks for Legionnaires and increasing peer support research.

“From the day of our founding after World War I, The American Legion has been responsible for tackling the most important issues facing our nation’s veterans,” American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford said in a release. “First, it was in creating the Veterans Bureau, now known as the Department of Veterans Affairs. Then it was by authoring the G.I. Bill. We went on to study and fight for disability relief for veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress and conditions related to Agent Orange exposure, and so much more. Through our mission and our infrastructure, we can fight the battle to end veteran suicide on all fronts, and that’s exactly what we intend to do.”

“We must do something now,” Barrett said. “We must show our nation’s veterans that there are welcoming spaces, like The American Legion, where they can go for an understanding ear and helpful resources to get the support they need.”

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing

Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.