LONG BEACH, Calif. – Taya Kyle called her ride with Mario Andretti in the INDYCAR Experience two-seater today around the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach street circuit “the experience of a lifetime.”
Earlier, the author of the best-seller “American Wife” and widow of Chris Kyle, the military hero whose life was depicted in the feature film “American Sniper,” helped make for someone else’s lifetime experience.
Kyle participated in the announcement of Sonny Saghera, a captain for Heartland Fire & Rescue in Le Mesa, Calif., as the second member of the CK Crew that will participate in the TAG Heuer Pit Stop Challenge during Miller Lite Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27.
The CK Crew is the team of military veterans and first responders being assembled by PIRTEK Team Murray to compete in the pit stop challenge on the weekend of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. The honorary CK Crew will go up against the regular full-time pit crews of other Verizon IndyCar Series teams, but Saghera is not concerned.
“I am looking forward to it,” said Saghera, 43 (in the middle of photo at right, along with Taya Kyle (left) and Matthew Brabham). “The pressure is not going to get to me. I work under pressure all the time; it’s nothing new to me. We train for situations to expect the unexpected. I am just looking forward to the overall experience of doing this.
“I’ll be ready,” Saghera added. “It’s a physically demanding job that we will do, but my job’s physically demanding, too, and we stay in shape. We have to. Just getting down the technicalities of what we have to do, that’s all we need to learn.”
Kyle is the ambassador for PIRTEK Team Murray, which is entering rookie Matthew Brabham in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 100th Indianapolis 500. Brabham looks to become the third third-generation driver to race in the “500,” following his grandfather Sir Jack and father Geoff.
The team has partnered with the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, where Taya Kyle serves as executive director, to bring a group of military veterans and their families to Indianapolis for race weekend and to compile the CK Crew. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is backing the project as it releases a commemorative Blu-ray disc edition of “American Sniper” in May.
Saghera, a 17-year firefighter, is honored to be part of the initiative.
“It really didn’t sink in until I got here today,” he said. “I did some research, I did some reading, but to actually now be here and be part of this and see what is going to be expected of me, it’s an unbelievable feeling.
“To be at the Indy 500 alone, but now to be on the 100th Indy 500, it’s an incredible feeling. I cannot describe it.”
Taya Kyle will wave the green flag Sunday as honorary starter for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. A long-time racing fan, she was in awe after taking the fast way around the circuit with Andretti at the wheel.
“Wow, that was incredible! The speed and especially the braking – I’ve never done anything like that before, it was just unbelievable,” she said. “To think also that I could do this with Mario Andretti is beyond awesome. He is one of the all-time greats and one of the most recognized motorsport champions in the world.
“I cannot thank INDYCAR enough for the chance. I have a totally new appreciation for what these guys do for a living after that, and how little room they have to move in the cockpit.”