When Alex Palou took pole at the Indianapolis 500, setting the fastest four-lap average speed in history at 234.217 miles per hour, his mind was more than the best starting position for the “greatest show race”.
During an interview with NBC Sports after his end, he looked into the camera and said something that resonates with his main sponsor, the American Legion.
“This one is for all the veterans in the United States today,” Palou said.
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Race sponsors aim to sell a product, be it engine oil, tires or soft drinks. But Palou and Chip Ganassi Racing have an American Legion wrap on their #10 Honda that says “Be The One” on the side and spoiler.
It’s an important message that hits harder on Memorial Day weekend in Indianapolis.
In the United States, 17 veterans commit suicide every day. The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign wants to not only reduce that number, but eradicate veteran suicide.
Palou, who was born in Spain and has only lived in the United States for four years, admitted that he was not too comfortable being the face of this influential organization for veterans because “I never had a family member who was a veteran.”
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However, the stories of his team members and learning more about the mission quickly changed his mind.
“It was huge to hear that we have veterans in our team, and they could really explain what they’ve been through, what friends have been through and really send the message that we wanted to keep and what our priority was. It was not to sell engine oil or any other product. It was to save the lives of veterans,” Palou told Fox News Digital ahead of the 107th Indy 500.
“It’s hard to understand when you don’t have the experience of someone close. But, honestly, [the team] made much easier to understand. From then on, it was like, ‘OK, we have to help people.’ If we can help make sure racing fans know there’s the ‘Be The One’ initiative, that they can get help, everyone can help someone.”
It was also important to Chip Ganassi, whose father fought in World War II.
American Legion Executive Director Dean Kessel explained the “Be The One” campaign to Fox News Digital.
“Our whole goal with what we do with ‘Be The One’ is to de-stigmatize by asking for help,” he explained. “That’s the No. 1 issue with veterans seeking mental help or contemplating suicide. It’s okay to not be OK. We want to be able to de-stigmatize the message around that.”
The American Legion has been in existence for 104 years, and Kessel pointed out how the organization was instrumental in creating the GI Bill, which gave World War II veterans access to free tuition, assistance mortgage and more and compensation for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
Today, Kessel said, “health and suicide, in particular,” are the biggest issues facing veterans returning from post-9/11 and Afghan tours, so the “Be The One” was born.
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“The phrase itself has a lot of intentional meaning. The reason we use the word ‘one’, we don’t mean the 17 who die every day. We want to talk about the one we can save today” “, Kessel said. “If you save one today, that number goes down by default.
“Second, we want to use action verbs. … Be the one who talks to a veteran, be the one who listens to a veteran, be the one who works locally with your legislation to solve veterans’ problems, be the one who hires a veteran.”
Palou’s #10 “Be The One” car was on full display ahead of pole at the Indy 500. He won the 2023 GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 13, his first win in that vehicle.
That victory, along with four top fives and five top 10s, allowed Palou to lead the IndyCar series with 174 points. Indianapolis being the headquarters of the American Legion, the victory meant so much to the organization that the members saw their guy cross the finish line. line and hold the trophy at the end of the race. The same feeling came when he took pole this week.
“You have all these forces coming together at the same time,” Kessel said of the Indy 500 this weekend. “We’re an Indianapolis-based organization. It’s Memorial weekend. We’re the American Legion with our vast impact across the country. And for Alex not only to win the pole, but he won the race last week leading to pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Now to be in this position for the greatest race in the world is just a phenomenal fluke for us.”
Palou hopes that will be the case again on Sunday, and not just to keep his place at the top of the points column.
“Winning Memorial Day weekend with the American Legion in Indianapolis, I think that would be huge for the American Legion, for us on the racing side, obviously. But we could spread the ‘Be The One’ initiative a lot. “.more,” he said.
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“I will do everything I can to put this #10 car on the road to victory.”