SONOMA CA - AUGUST 22: Mario Andretti stands with Road Championship Trophy after the IZOD IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway on August 22 2010 in Sonoma California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti announced Tuesday that he will be taking part in The Indy 500 Centennial Tour visiting U.S. military personnel stationed in Europe and Southeast Asia this coming January.
"I've had the chance to visit bases before and I welcome the opportunity," Andretti said on Tuesday during an IndyCar conference call. "To visit with the folks serving our country and bring a smile to their faces, I'm looking forward to this."
Winner of the 1969 Indy race as well as a F1 world championship and the Daytona 500, Andretti will be joined on the tour by Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser Jr., Davey Hamilton, Graham Rahal, Martin Plowman, Larry Foyt, Carmen the Izod Trophy Girl and Jack Arute among others.
Also going along for the tour celebrating the 100th anniversary of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," the March 2011 Indianapolis 500, will be the special two-seater Indy racecar, and Andretti is expected to give some rides along the way.
"Imagine how great it will be for some of our military to have Mario drive them around?" said Tom Lee, co-founder of the Morale Entertainment Foundation, the non-profit volunteer-staffed organization that is helping to coordinate the tour with Armed Forces Entertainment, a Department of Defense agency.
Lee said the tour will begin in Landstuhl, Germany, site of the medial center that has treated many of the American servicemembers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also included on the itinerary is a trip to an aircraft carrier - Lee pointed out next year is also the centennial for Naval Aviation - although there was no indication if the two-seater would be making runs on the flight deck.
Andretti was approached about taking part in the tour during the season finale race at Homestead-Miami. After he gave a ride in the two-seater to a National Guard general, the Andretti suggested the car be included in the Centennial Tour, and as a counter-proposal he was invited as well.
Lee estimated the 10-day tour will visit with more than 10,000 American servicemen and women in Europe and Asia.