While traveling home from a rare Verizon IndyCar Series off weekend spent in California, Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi made a pit stop in the middle of the country on Wednesday.
Rossi, the first American rookie to win the Indy 500 since Louis Meyer in 1928, joined Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage in making special visits to the Jack Evans Headquarters of the Dallas Police Department and the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex of the Fort Worth Police Department.T
The visits supported Texas Motor Speedway’s “Back the Blue” initiative that provides free admission to the Aug. 27 resumption of the Firestone 600 for police officers and first responders, plus a friend.
In Dallas, Rossi and Gossage presented 200 tickets to Dallas Assistant Police Chief Santos Cadena and thanked officers for their service to the community. Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Properties provided Texas Motor Speedway polo shirts, ball caps and die-cast cars for the officers and Levy Restaurants, the speedway's official concessionaire, made more than 200 freshly baked cookies for the force.
“Back the Blue” is a nation-wide initiative that gained further momentum after tragedy struck the Dallas-area police force. On July 7, five police officers were killed in a sniper shooting in downtown Dallas. Those heroic officers lost were Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer Brent Thompson and Dallas Police Department Officers Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens and Michael Smith.
The speedway announced Wednesday, in partnership with the Verizon IndyCar Series, that each car in the Firestone 600 field will have a "Back The Blue" decal and each driver in the field will wear a cap representing a local or national law enforcement agency to show their support.
"The department has received overwhelming support from the city, state and around the world,” Cadena said. “This is a continuation of that. Our officers have been really impressed with the degree of love and support. It has really helped us in the healing process and we thank everyone for the generosity and support that everyone has shown. It's been great to know that someone of (Rossi’s) caliber - obviously time is in demand for him being a highly-trained athlete. For him to take time out to visit us and to show his support for Dallas and the Dallas Police Department, it's been tremendous."
In Fort Worth, Rossi and Gossage made the ticket presentation to Fort Worth Assistant Police Chief Kenneth Dean before a group of officers as well as the 2016 candidate class from the police academy. SMIP also provided merchandise for the Fort Worth force and Levy Restaurants provided another 200 cookies as a show of gratitude at both venues.
“It's a huge honor to be here and to meet people that spend their whole lives looking out for us,” Rossi said. “Being an American, I grew up and I have a lot of understanding and appreciation for what they do, not only for our nation, but for our communities as well. It's something we all take for granted at times. It's just a nice reminder to be able to come here and meet people and get the personal, human experience.”
Rossi also had the opportunity to spend time talking with the officers as well as posing for photos and signing autographs in Dallas and Fort Worth.
The Firestone 600 will resume Aug. 27 at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN on Lap 72. The first 71 laps were completed on June 12, but the race was then postponed due to rain. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe leads the race, with Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay in second. Rossi will resume the race in 13th.