When Alex Palou won the pole in the Indianapolis 500, setting the fastest four-lap average speed ever at 234.217 miles per hour, his mind was on more than just the first starting position for «Big Show Racing.» «.
During an interview with NBC Sports after his arrival, he looked into the camera and said something that resonates with his main sponsor, the American Legion.
«This one today is for all the veterans of the United States,» Palou said.
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Racing sponsors aim to sell a product, whether it’s motor oil, tires or soft drinks. But Palou and Chip Ganassi Racing have an American Legion sign on their No. 10 Honda that reads «Be The One» on the side and spoiler.
It’s an important message that hits hardest on Memorial Day weekend in Indianapolis.
In the United States, 17 veterans commit suicide every day. the american legion «Be the chosen one» campaign he wants to not only reduce that number but to eradicate veteran suicide.
Palou, who was born in Spain and has only lived in the United States four years, admitted that he did not feel very comfortable being the face of this powerful organization for veterans because «I never had any family members who were veterans.»
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However, the stories from the people on his team and learning more about the mission quickly changed his mind.
«It was great to know that we have some veterans on our team, and that they could really explain what they went through, what friends went through and really send the message that we wanted to keep it going and what our priority was. It wasn’t selling engines, oil or any product It was to save the lives of the 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 to you. But honestly, [the team] made it much easier to understand. From that point on, it was like, ‘OK, we need to help people.’ If we can help make sure racing fans know there’s a ‘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 CEO Dean Kessel explained the «Be The One» campaign to Fox News Digital.
«Our whole goal with what we’re doing with ‘Be The One’ is to destigmatize asking for help,» he explained. «That’s the number one issue with veterans seeking mental health help or contemplating suicide. It’s okay to not be okay. We want to be able to destigmatize the messaging around that.»
The American Legion has been in existence for 104 years, and Kessel noted how the organization has been instrumental in creating the GI Bill, which gave World War II veterans access to free tuition, mortgage assistance and more, and veterans compensation. from Vietnam exposed to Agent Orange.
Today, Kessel said, «health and suicide, in particular,» are the biggest issues facing veterans returning from post-9/11 tours and to Afghanistan, which is how the «Be The One» campaign came to be.
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«The phrase itself has a lot of intentional meaning. The reason we use the word ‘one’ is that we don’t want to talk about the 17 that die every day. We want to talk about the one that we can save today,» Kessel said. «If you save one today, that number goes down by default.
«Second, we want to use action verbs…Whether you’re talking to a veteran, whether you’re listening to a veteran, whether you’re working locally with your legislation to help with veterans’ issues, whether you’re hiring to a veteran.»
Palou’s No. 10 «Be The One» car was on full display ahead of pole position in the Indy 500. He won the 2023 GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 13, his first victory in that vehicle.
That win, along with four top-five and five top-10 finishes, sees Palou lead the IndyCar Series in points with 174. With Indianapolis being the home of the American Legion, the win meant a lot to the organization as the members saw their boy cross the finish line. line and hold the trophy at the end of the race. The same feeling was produced when he took pole position this week.
«You’ve got all these forces coming together at the same time,» Kessel said of the Indianapolis 500 this weekend. «We’re an Indianapolis-based organization. It’s Memorial weekend. We’re the American Legion with our big impact across the country. And for Alex to not only win the pole, but he won the race last week that he drove to the pole». at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Now to be in that position for the biggest 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, obviously for us on the racing side. But we could spread the ‘Be The One’ initiative a lot more.» , said.
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«I’ll do everything I can to get that No. 10 car into victory lane.»