INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana -- United Rentals is doubling down on its belief in Graham Rahal.
When United Rentals signed on as a Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing sponsor last season, it launched its Turns for Troops initiative to donate $50 for each lap Rahal completed in the season toward the SoldierStrong program that funds access to education, state-of-the-art rehabilitation programs and technologies that address a variety of combat-related injuries for military veterans. More than $102,000 was raised in 2016.
At a news conference today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, United Rentals announced it is doubling the donation for the two May races at IMS – Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix and the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28. If Rahal completes every lap in his No. 15 SoldierStrong / TurnsForTroops.com Honda in the two races, it will add another $28,500 to the coffer.
Rahal was joined in announcing the effort by: team co-owners Bobby Rahal and David Letterman; Chris Hummel, chief marketing officer of United Rentals; and SoldierStrong founder Chris Meek. Hummel said United Rentals is undertaking 20 moments of service this year to commemorate the company's 20th anniversary.
“We're kicking that off here this weekend, where we've taken our sponsorship spot on Graham's car, No. 15, and actually gifted it over to the Turns for Troops program," Hummel said. "So rather than highlighting just United Rentals, to use the car, use the weekend, use the activities to actually highlight the Turns for Troops program. We think it's a fantastic program. We're very happy to see it pushing forward this weekend.”
SoldierStrong funds the production of exoskeletons to help veterans paralyzed or with spinal cord injuries walk again.
“We have to date funded 13 of these devices,” Meek said. “Each device costs nearly $200,000 and we've expanded the program from just the exoskeleton device to include other life-transformational, cutting edge medical devices, specifically prosthetic arms and legs.”
Graham Rahal has long been a proponent of causes to assist the military. He remains awed by United Rentals’ devotion to the Turns for Troops initiative.
“I think their commitment to the program for Turns for Troops and SoldierStrong is shown this weekend and through the 500 where they've doubled the donation that they are going to make, let alone passing up on the (car sponsorship) opportunity,” he said. “The (United Rentals) brand is still on the car, but not in a big way and it really showcases what we're trying to do here. Thanks to United Rentals for that.”
Team co-owner Letterman, the retired late-night talk-show host, was pleased his team could be part of the project.
“I have a feeling that the technology of (the exoskeletons) as it's replicated again and again will get better and better and better, easier to use and less expensive,” Letterman said. “But for the time being, to be in on the ground floor of something that will benefit these men and women whose lives are for all practical purposes changed dramatically, if not ruined … I can't begin to tell you the pride that I feel that transcends motor racing.”