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INDY 500 CHAMP ROSSI 'BACKS THE BLUE' DURING SPECIAL VISITS
FORT WORTH, Texas (August 17, 2016) - The following is an event recap with photo and video links from Wednesday's visit to the Dallas Police Department and Fort Worth Police Department by reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi as part of the "Back The Blue" initiative for the Firestone 600 Verizon IndyCar Series race Saturday, Aug. 27, at Texas Motor Speedway.
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 in the morning and the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex of the Fort Worth Police Department in the afternoon.
In Dallas, Rossi and Gossage addressed a room full of officers and thanked them for their service while presenting 200 tickets for the Firestone 600 to Dallas Assistant Police Chief Santos Cadena. Also, 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.
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.
Rossi also had the opportunity to spend time conversing with the officers as well as posing for photos and signing autographs in Dallas and Fort Worth.
Rossi's visit kicked off Texas Motor Speedway's "Back The Blue" initiative that includes providing free admission for police personnel as well as all first responders for them and a guest at the Firestone 600 on Saturday, Aug. 27, beginning at 8 p.m. The speedway also 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 ball cap representing a local or national law enforcement agency to show their support.
”¢ Fort Worth PD Officer Matt Pearce, who survived being shot five times by a fugitive during a manhunt in March, was a surprise guest for the visit by Rossi and Gossage as he continues to recover from those near-fatal wounds. He had the opportunity to spend time with Rossi and Gossage to update them on his progress as well as receive an autographed hat and photo from the Indy 500 champ. Pearce, who served as the Firestone 600 Grand Marshal in June, is slated to return for the Aug. 27 resumption of the race and provide the command to start the engines once again. He also is scheduled to personally address the drivers in their pre-race drivers' meeting for their support and be a guest in the pits of Verizon IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal.
”¢ Texas Motor Speedway presented Dallas Assistant Police Chief Santos Cadena with a card of support signed by all the speedway employees that included a check for the Line of Duty Fund of The Dallas Foundation. The check was for $7,602 and raised by personal donations from speedway employees and Friday Night Drags competitors the day following the shooting. The Line of Duty Fund supports those Dallas Police Department and DART transit officers, including their families, affected by the July 7 sniper shootings in downtown Dallas.
”¢ The visit to the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex also included a look at the future of the Fort Worth Police Department. In addition to Gossage and Rossi addressing the current officers, the entire class of 40 candidates from the police academy took part in the visit during a break from their training. Gossage personally addressed that group and then he and Rossi also posed with them for a group photo.
”¢ Rossi had an opportunity to witness first-hand all the salutes, tributes and hand-written notes and signs from citizens showing their support of the Dallas Police Department in their headquarters as a result of the deadly sniper shootings July 7 in downtown Dallas. He added his support by adding a personal note and signature to the "Back The Blue" tribute on a column on the second floor of headquarters.
"To be here at the Dallas Police Department is a great honor. It's something that I have a lot of pride in being able to be here and represent the Verizon IndyCar Series. We want to do our part to show our appreciation for all law enforcement officers and first responders. It will be a great experience for everyone to come out and for us to all really enjoy a fantastic conclusion to a race." - Andretti Herta Autosport w/ Curb Agajanian rookie Alexander Rossi on his visit to the Dallas Police Department headquarters.
"It's a huge honor to be here and to meet people that spend their whole lives looking out for us. 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 on his overall respect and appreciation of police officers.
"The department has received overwhelming support from the city, state and around the world. 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 his caliber (Rossi) - 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." - Dallas PD Assistant Chief Santos Cadena on the visit from Rossi and support from Texas Motor Speedway and the Verizon IndyCar Series.
"It's a huge support. Any time you get those who have influence in the media - it's a big deal for us. There is a lot of media out there talking about how bad police officers are. Very rarely do you see media talk about how good officers are. It's really nice to see the support not only through my incident, but through the sniper shootings in Dallas and all over the United States at this point. We are under fire and any time we put on a uniform on we have a target on our backs. Sometimes it's hard to come to this job and go out there knowing that we may never go home to our families. I told my wife when I got injured, 'It's a good thing I love my job because if I didn't love my job I wouldn't go back to this line of work after being injured like I was. '" - Fort Worth PD Officer Matt Pearce on the impact of Rossi and Texas Motor Speedway showing their support with a visit to the complex.
"It was great to visit both Dallas and Fort Worth Police Departments and have Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi with us to talk about "Back The Blue Night" - where every police office and first responder can show their ID and get in free. It's been an interesting and difficult summer for police officers and we want to show our respect. We want to show they can come out and have some fun and forget about all those though things because they are going to have to go back to it - to keep us safe and defend us. We want them to know Saturday, Aug. 27 you can come to the speedway and have a great time as our way of showing our appreciation." - Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage on his visits to the Dallas and Fort Worth police departments with reigning Indy 500 champ Alexander Rossi.
By The Numbers
5 - Law enforcement officers that were killed during the sniper shootings in downtown Dallas on July 7. 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.
40 - Candidates from the Fort Worth Police Academy that took part in the visit from Indy 500 champ Alexander Rossi and Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex.
76 - Days between the suspension of the Firestone 600 on June 12 after the completion of 71 of 248 laps and the resumption on Saturday, Aug. 27.
100s - Photos taken and autographs signed by reigning Indy 500 champ Alexander Rossi with police personnel in Fort Worth and Dallas.
3,500 - Views after the first hour of the Facebook Live webcast by the Fort Worth Police Department featuring Indy 500 champ Alexander Rossi and Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage during their visit. https://www.facebook.com/InsideFWPD/