Kimberly Boring has watched the Indianapolis 500 since she was a child. She remembers rooting for Roger Penske’s drivers, iconic names like Rick Mears, Emerson Fittipaldi and Danny Sullivan. Later, it was Helio Castroneves wearing the Team Penske brand.
But this weekend, there is no doubt where Kimberly and her husband, Reed, will focus their allegiance during the 500: on Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) and, specifically, team owner Chip Ganassi and polesitter Alex Palou in the No. 10 American Legion Honda.
“It was pretty easy (to switch allegiance to Ganassi), seeing his efforts to help veterans,” said Kimberly, who is a member of American Legion Unit 34 in Lancaster, Pa., where her husband is the post historian. “I will confess I’m still a Penske girl in NASCAR. But on Sunday, we will be all Ganassi.”
Reed said he and Kimberly were moved by Palou winning the pole last weekend, the exposure given to the Legion’s “Be the One” initiative featured on Palou’s car – and team owner Chip Ganassi thanking The American Legion and the nation’s veterans during comments he made afterward on the national television broadcast.
“We just lost it. It was absolutely amazing,” Reed said. “And the first thing we said to each other was, ‘Look at all the people who are going to be looking at that car and looking up online this Be the One. What’s Be the One all about?’ I can’t think of any way better to get the word out. And I’ll tell you what. Listening to Chip Ganassi talk about how important this is to veterans, he’s got a life-long fan now.”
Kimberly said Ganassi’s remarks left an impression on her. “It was incredible,” she said. “Reed and I looked at each other, and we both had tears in our eyes. It was so touching that a man in his position would take the time to say that. He just put his car on the pole of the Indianapolis 500, and he’s thinking about our veterans. I thought that was incredible.
Wanting to let CGR know what the win and the comments meant to her and Reed, Kimberly sent the following email to CGR Public Relations Manager Will Erickson:
Dear Chip Ganassi Racing,
I am so excited to see Alex Palou and the American Legion #10 car on the pole for the Indy 500! There was very much cheering and shrieking from our living room in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Thank you so much for your partnership with the American Legion and its "Be the One" campaign. My husband and I are Legion members and this campaign is especially important to us. Our family has lost two precious members to veteran suicide. I can't think of a better way to get the "Be the One" message out than to have it displayed prominently at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing! Mr. Ganassi's interview after qualifying brought tears to our eyes. We so appreciate his comments and dedication to our veterans, a group so often overlooked by society and who often are hesitant to reach out for help.
I have watched the Indy 500 since I was a little girl with my dad, but I must confess, we rooted for the Penske boys – Rick, Danny, Emerson and Helio. From now on, however, our family will be wearing our "Be the One" shirts and disrupting the neighborhood by cheering for Alex and Ganassi Racing!
Hoping for milk-chugging,
Proud Veteran Wife and Mother
Chip Ganassi Convert
“I was raised that when you’re grateful for something you say, ‘thank you,’” Kimberly said. “I didn’t expect any kind of response at all. And then it went crazy.”
When Alex found out about Kimberly’s email, he recorded a response in which he told her he’d drive to get the No. 10 American Legion Honda into the Winner’s Circle this weekend, “to try to help as many people as possible.”
It made Kimberly’s week.
“When Alex said, ‘Hey Kim,’ I couldn't believe it,” she said. “Surely, he has 1 million things to do this week and he took the time to send ME a message? I don't think either Reed or I breathed as we watched Alex's message. When it finished, we were both in tears. This young man cares about the Be the One message and I just wanted to hug him. I was in disbelief, I was off-the-charts excited, and I was incredibly humbled. I still can't believe it.
“Now I've gone into Mom Mode and I want him to be safe on Sunday. He is the same age as my kids and now I feel obligated to fret that he is going 234 miles per hour. But I do tell people that I am on a first-name basis with the Indy 500 pole sitter.”
Reed and Kimberly were “Be the One” supporters well before last weekend. The pair learned about the program online. “I said, ‘This is exactly how we want to get involved,’” Reed said. “This is something that we can cling to and hopefully make a difference and jump-start the conversation. That’s the most important thing: People talking to each other. Talking to veterans. Seeing how they’re doing. Checking on them. Doing whatever we possibly can to get people help that need help. That’s the key to this campaign.”
Reed already has received permission to form and head up a “Be the One” committee at the post, while Kimberly wants to be a part of it through the Auxiliary. They also plan on reaching out to other posts in the area that host motorcycle events to see about setting up a “Be the One” display at those events.
“It’s such a simple message, but it’s so extremely powerful. And it doesn’t require someone to give money, or a whole lot of time or effort,” Kimberly said. “It’s a simple solution to a very troubling problem, and we need people to be aware it’s a problem. The more people who know veterans are going through this, the more they will be willing to reach out and just check on folks.”
Suicide has hit close to home for Kimberly and Reed, who has lost a cousin and an in-law to suicide. “We’ve seen how it affected the families,” Kimberly said. “And to be honest, we have (an Air Force veteran) son who struggles with some mental-health issues, and we have to check on him. So, it’s important to us that other families don’t have to go through what members of our family have.”
The pair will be rooting for Alex on Sunday, loud enough, they joked, that they may cause a disruption in their neighborhood. Reed said a win would be a major milestone for “Be the One.”
“If he can make it to the Winner’s Circle, we’re going to hang our hat on that,” he said. “It is such a great vehicle to promote this program. And I don’t remember any kind of program like this before being pushed as a sponsor. It’s been sodas and food and paints and things like that. It’s never been a campaign to help prevent veteran suicides. This is a first.”