On the advent of a sparkling autumn day, a green flag is attached to the peak of the garage to symbolize the start of a house project in Speedway, Ind., that will transform Frank Gazvoda’s life.
There’s little time to ease into the work week. Pre-framed walls and trusses are on the graded job site, and Trevor Mitchener of The Pit Crew calls out initial assignments to the baker’s dozen of volunteers assembled for the framework and roofing of the “Speedway 5 Hundred” project.
In a week, Gazvoda, a disabled U.S. Army veteran, and his two sons will be enjoying the comforts of their new home compliments of a conglomerate of volunteer assistance and corporate and community donations.
Click it: Photo gallery from Day 1
“We’re actually ahead of schedule,” Mitchener quietly announces mid-morning as personnel from Chip Ganassi Racing, Performance Tire Service Co. and Allison Transmissions diligently measure, lift and hammer on the house’s skeleton.
Throughout the week, members of Verizon IndyCar Series teams CFH Racing, Andretti Autosport, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Dale Coyne Racing and Team Penske, along with INDYCAR and other local companies, will chip in on each phase of the project inside and out.
When Gazvoda (in photo at right in black shirt) raises the Stars and Stripes on the flag pole in the front yard and gazes at the Panasonic Pagoda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the distance, he’ll be reminded of the community spirit at the forefront of the project.
“I am one lucky man and blessed to have these talented people out there helping me,” said Gazvoda, who sustained a broken back while repelling from a U.S. Army helicopter more than a decade ago and still deals with the pain. “They say I am their hero for serving our country, but they are my heroes.”
The project is being coordinated through the Fuller Center for Housing, a national nonprofit organization that works with families in need to provide them a home they can afford, and corporate sponsor Jonathan Byrd’s restaurant and hospitality group.
After Gazvoda was selected for the project, the Speedway Community Development Corporation acquired the abandoned property and procured the appropriate permits. The structure was demolished and site work begun for the new dwelling. The Pit Crew, which was founded in 2012 and consists of the extended INDYCAR community assisting veterans in the Indianapolis area, is overseeing the Speedway 5 Hundred project with the help of skilled trades and craft professionals.
“This could be an inaugural event; it’s great for the community,” said Gazvoda, 43, who is working toward a degree in cyber security at a local college. “Neighbors are baking cookies and feeding us. I feel very welcome here.
“This is a new beginning. Now I’m focusing on the good things of life.”
Gazvoda, a longtime Indy car racing and Indianapolis 500 fan, annually participates in the pre-race military ceremonies. On the wall studs of the garage that will be his “man cave” filled with racing items donated by teams and Firestone Racing, he wrote the names of Indy car drivers, fellow military members and family who have passed.
“It’s a tribute and dedicated to those we’ve lost,” said Gazvoda, who attended his first Indy 500 in 1983. “By being part of the military ceremony and being part of the greatest race in the world, I get to share in both during Memorial Day weekend.
“I know how fortunate I am and I’m overwhelmed with this house build. I’m happy to be part of the community. It’s a situation where everybody wins.”
Contribution of materials, monetary donations and volunteering time to the Speedway 5 Hundred project or on a future project can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the project's progress on Twitter @theindypitcrew and on Facebook at theindypitcrew.