August 3, 2012
By Rebecca Gladden
If you visit the website of the Armed Forces Foundation (AFF), you will see a photo of a soldier with the heading “A Special Tribute.”
The photo, showing a man in an Army uniform, is captioned, “The AFF and Phoenix Racing will race in honor of SPC Andy Rubenstein (Ret.) this Sunday in Indiana.”
The tribute, part of a collaboration between Phoenix Racing and the Armed Forces Foundation, is an ongoing program for the 2012 race season. Each week, a soldier or family member chosen for the honor will have his or her name placed on the A-pillar of the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Car, driven by Busch.
Photo Courtesy Andy Rubenstein
In Rubenstein’s case, he also received a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including behind-the-scenes access with the team and driver.
Rubenstein served in the US Army and took part in Operation Desert Storm, having deployed several times to Kuwait, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. He was a Petroleum Supply Specialist who moved fuel up to troops and set up stations for helicopters to refuel. After returning from the war, he now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“The Armed Forces Foundation has been accepting names of people to honor for their service that suffer from PTSD, and relatives that had soldiers killed in action,” Rubenstein told me. “I am a huge NASCAR fan and one of my friends told me about the Foundation. I was asked if I would be interested in coming up to Indianapolis to meet Kurt Busch and his team for the weekend.”
Andy and wife Cinthya flew to Indiana from their home in Florida Saturday morning and spent the day in the garage, watching the No. 51 team in action as they prepared Kurt’s car for the race. “The members of the crew were fantastic and answered every question I had. When the car moved from the garage to the inspection stations, I went along with it.”
Photo Courtesy Andy Rubenstein
Sunday’s race at the Brickyard was one of the most prestigious of the NASCAR season, and Rubenstein was there to take in the sites from his vantage point in the garage and on pit road. “On race day, I met everyone back at the garage and watched them make their final tune-ups to the car. The car went through race day inspection and then was rolled onto the track. I followed the car straight onto the track as well. The drivers went through introductions and rode around the track before the race. My wife and I were standing next to his car waiting for Kurt Busch to arrive.”
When Busch returned to pit road following driver intros, he spent about five minutes talking one-on-one with Andy. “We all took pictures in front of the car, which had my name on it for the race. He was very kind to my wife and I.” Rubenstein recalls Kurt telling him, “It is an honor to have your name on my car," and said they talked racing for a bit.
“We stayed for the national anthem with Kurt and, when it was time to start the engines, we went with the pit crew to sit on pit row for the race. We watched every pit stop up close, listened to his radio, and watched the entire race from the track.”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t Kurt’s day on the race track, finishing in 36th place with engine problems. The race was won by Jimmie Johnson.
But a disappointing finish for the Phoenix Racing team couldn’t put a damper on Andy’s enthusiasm.
“This is something that I will never forget,” Rubenstein said. “I am very thankful for the opportunity. I went to the Brickyard last year - however, nothing compares to this experience.”
Note: The Armed Forces Foundation is an organization dedicated to providing comfort and solace to members of the military community through financial support, career counseling, housing assistance and recreational therapy programs. To make a donation, please visit Armed Forces Foundation.
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