Rookie driver Matt Brabham might be surrounded by the most protective pit crew in the long history of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race for the historic 100th running in May.
The driver of the No. 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet will have six first responders and military veterans from across North America serving as an honorary pit crew for the epic race on May 29 as part of a fundraising program in collaboration with the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation. The crew will also represent the team May 27 in the TAG Heuer Pit Stop Competition on Miller Lite Carb Day.
“It’s just exciting,” said Taya Kyle, widow of Chris Kyle, Chris Kyle Frog Foundation founder and PIRTEK Team Murray ambassador.
“When I was growing up, I loved playing with race cars and sports cars – the other girls played with Barbies, but I liked the racing stuff. It’s interesting that things have come full circle and we are involved in a racing environment. I never thought I would be at an actual race, especially at Indy.”
Navy SEAL Chris Kyle served four tours in Iraq and later published his best-selling autobiography, “American Sniper,” in 2012. The book was adapted into a 2014 motion picture directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper.
Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield were killed at a shooting range in Texas in February 2013 by Marine Eddie Ray Routh, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. The two men were trying to help Routh cope with his demons.
The Chris Kyle Frog Foundation is dedicated to serving military and first responders through meaningful interactive experiences that enrich family relationships. Its programs and partners reflect the excellence that these individuals and families provide in service to their communities and country.
Now, Taya Kyle is pleased to see that the "CK Crew" at the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” will play a key role in helping raise awareness of those dealing with post-traumatic stress and providing support to the families of first responders and military veterans.
Funds raised through the CK Crew will be used by the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation to build programs that allow military service, veteran and first responder families to reconnect post-deployment.
The project is especially fitting because having first responders and military veterans serve as a pit crew made sense to Chris Kyle, who was reminded of his military unit after he witnessed their attention to detail, toughness and the ability to work as one for the common goal at a few stock car races he attended before his death.
“For the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation to do something really different and be involved in Indy on the 100th (running) and on Memorial Day (weekend) was the perfect fit for us,” Taya Kyle said.
"If you look at first responders and military veterans, they are really used to working in that environment, where it takes a team effort, you have to be precise, you have to be focused because somebody’s life is on the line, but to do that in a fun way and show that teamwork is important is pretty cool.”
Former Navy SEAL David Rutherford was named as the first member of the pit crew at the program launch during the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg on March 13. The remaining five crew members will be named in coming weeks.
They’ll gather in Indianapolis in early May for 10 days of intensive training and to be immersed in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway experience before the Pit Stop Competition. The honorary crew will also be on standby in case their services are needed on race day. Always ready to respond, something with which the group is well acquainted.
“I can’t wait for this competition and am so thankful to Taya, the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation and PIRTEK Team Murray for giving me this opportunity,” Rutherford said.
“We’ll be using plenty of SEAL Team thinking come the TAG Heuer Pit Stop Competition and I think that, with the team we are putting together with Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and the support of the military community on that Memorial Day Weekend, we can be unstoppable.”
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment helped create the concept as it launches the release of “American Sniper: The Chris Kyle Commemorative Edition” on Blu-ray May 3.
An advocate for the recognition and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, Rutherford served eight years before leaving active service in 2003. He founded Froglogic Concepts and has become an internationally known motivational speaker, author and coach.
The remaining crew members will be a mixture of first responders, active military service personnel and veterans hand-picked by Taya Kyle.
“We’re bringing some first responders and their spouses and veterans and their spouses to the event so they can experience something new and different and we can wrap our arms around them and love them up and care for their marriage, which, of course, is the mission of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation,” she said.
“All in all, I think it’s going to be an experience that the people involved will never forget. It’s just too big, too unique and too special. To get to have this wonderful experience is going to be something very healing for them and gets them out of the cycle of battling evil all the time, which is exhausting.”
The program is seeking sponsors to help underwrite the cost of bringing in the honorary pit crew and hundreds of other veterans to enjoy Indianapolis 500 race weekend. For more information, visit www.chriskylefrogfoundation.org.