INDIANAPOLIS (Army News Service, May 28, 2008) -- About 60 Soldiers of the Indiana National Guard were rewarded for their work with free tickets to the Indianapolis 500 to see the Guard-sponsored #4 car run by Panther Racing.

The day began with a visit and talk by Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., and the Indiana Adjutant General Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, who thanked all for their service. They also both took a special moment to thank the spouses for their support and posed for photos with the country's three top recruiters.

A few minutes later #4 National Guard car driver, Vitor Meira, visited with the Soldiers and signed autographs. He made every autograph special by talking with and laughing with the troops and family members as they came by.

The garage tour was a special VIP treat led by Mike Griffin, the Panther Racing expert on all things car-related. All eyes were on him as he walked the group through preparation activities for the car and driver, and gave the inside scoop on racing with details on radio talk and using spotters around the track to feed the drivers information.

Back at the hospitality area, the Soldiers met Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, and got another visit from Vitor Meira.

A patriotic start to the race found all hatless and standing with prime seats directly in front of Oriol Servia's pit crew. The sound was deafening as the cars raced past, and spectators could feel the heat begin to rise off the track.

Marty Roth #25 hit the wall directly below and the third caution of the day gave everyone another break from standing. After one of the group's favorites, Tony Kanaan, hit the wall with Sarah Fisher, the group became more unanimous in their cheering for Vitor Meira as he began working his way up to the front.

When Meira took up third position, all cheered him on. The pit stop run to first place brought the whole penthouse area to its feet.

In the end, Vitor Meira brought the #4 National Guard car in second place with a great run for the lead.

Though the car and driver didn't take the checkered flag, the Soldiers and Airmen of the Indiana National Guard said they went home from the 92nd running of the Indy 500 feeling like winners.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16