By Lindy Thackston
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (May 13, 2015) - This is the story of a 180 mile-per-hour surprise for three Hoosier veterans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And their escort was none other than racing legend Mario Andretti.
"I woke up this morning knowing I was going somewhere, but I didn't know where I was going," said Zach Nelson. "My wife has kept this a secret from me since January so I was pretty excited when we turned down the Speedway road, but I still didn't know where we were going."
Nelson says he could have never guessed what was about to happen.
"I saw the back of Mario walking into one of the doors and he’s like, 'You know who that is over there?' And I said, 'Is that Mario?', and he said, 'Yeah that’s your driver!' and I was like, that’s awesome!"
Nelson and two other men were treated to rides in a 2-seater IndyCar around the famed oval, and a visit with Bryan Clauson, driver of the #88 Chevy for Byrd Racing.
Nelson was hurt in Afghanistan in 2012 in a vehicle rollover. He was the gunner on top providing security and couldn't brace himself when his unit hit a boulder placed in the road.
He spent his younger years attending the Indy 500 with his family, watching and cheering for Andretti.
"The ride was amazing," said Nelson. "Never experienced anything like that in my life, going 180 miles per hour around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is every person’s dream and it came true for me today."
The veterans also got pit and garage passes to spend the day with Clauson and the team.