FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — IndyCar drivers will have "Back The Blue" decals on their cars and wear caps representing local police and national law enforcement agencies when they resume the rain-interrupted race at Texas Motor Speedway on Aug. 27.
Just weeks after the June 12 postponement, five law enforcement officers were shot and killed July 7 in downtown Dallas at the end of a protest over protest over police-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota in the days before that. There have been protests this week in Milwaukee after an officer-involved shooting there.
Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi joined Texas Motor Speedway officials Wednesday on visits to the headquarters of the Fort Worth Police Department and the Dallas Police Department.
"It means a lot, we had an opportunity with the race being rescheduled to do something to show our appreciation, and our respect, and gratitude," Rossi said. "I'm just honored to be a part of it."
Rossi and TMS President Eddie Gossage addressed officers at each department, and presented 200 tickets for the race at each stop. Police personnel will be admitted to the race free, along with a companion, by showing their badge.
Gossage said all that is being done is a way to show respect to police and all first responders.
"Our fans' blood runs red white and blue, probably more than any other sport going, so it just made obvious sense," Gossage said. "To put the 'Back The Blue' decals on the car and for each of the drivers to wear a hat from a various police department, as opposed to their sponsor hats, that's a big deal."
The Texas race in June was first pushed back a day because of rain, then the next day completed only 71 of the scheduled 248 laps before more rain led to an unprecedented 2 1/2-month delay.
Fort Worth police officer Matt Pearce, who survived being shot multiple times by a fugitive during a manhunt in March, will return as Grand Marshal and give the drivers command to start their engines — the same as he did in June. He appreciates what TMS and the IndyCar Series are doing for officers when the race resumes.
"It means a lot to every officer, anybody that wears a badge," Pearce said. "I know that for me it was a big morale booster knowing that I had support, not only from my guys, but pretty much every agency throughout the Metroplex. I don't think there's an agency in Tarrant County that didn't chip in to support me when I needed their help, and that's huge. ... I really think that has a lot to do with how fast I have recovered."