A look at IndyCar Ministry

Bob Hills of IndyCar Ministry with Simona de Silvestro prior to the 2011 race at Texas Motor Speedway

Tragedy struck the Verizon IndyCar Series on Monday, when driver Justin Wilson succumbed to injuries sustained in Sunday's ABC Supply Co. 500 at Pocono Raceway. The popular Wilson's passing has shocked and stunned a community that heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend with very heavy hearts.

Obviously, there is nothing that can bring Wilson back. And obviously such times are a side of the sport we all hate. However, there is a traveling support network the IndyCar family can turn to in such times: IndyCar Ministry.

Based in Indianapolis, IndyCar Ministry is a 501c3 not-for-profit, non-denominational organization, started in 1996 with the purpose of providing spiritual support and counseling that meets needs specific to the racing community. This support can be for team members, safety personnel, drivers, or anyone else involved with racing.

Led by Director and Chaplin Bob Hills, IndyCar Ministry travels to all Verizon IndyCar Series races, where it provides a Christian service and Catholic Mass. Hills is not the only chaplain that is onsite for race events. The Ministry also hosts Bible Study at given events.

David Storwick is the chaplain for the Mazda Road to Indy and performs much of the same duties with the USF2000, ProMazda and the Indy Lights series. And board member Matthew Welty, is also on hand to assist with the race day services.

The Ministry's work can extend off-track as well. If a member of the community is going through a difficult personal situation such as family difficulties or an illness, Hills and his Ministry are there to provide counseling and support.

Hills also arranges for a refrigerated truck to be on-site at the events and any leftover food from the hospitality areas is stored there and distributed to homeless shelters to feed the less fortunate. His Soap is Hope project is a collection of the shampoos and soaps from hotel rooms are that donated by members of the series and given to homeless shelters with the less fortunate. He leads the drivers in prayer at the drivers meeting on race day and is ever present on the grid before the start of a race, leading the teams in a quick prayer for a safe race.

In the case of an accident that sends a driver or crew member to the hospital, Hills is at the hospital to provide spiritual healing and support to the injured driver and to their family. Should the situation be life-threatening, Hills also coordinates with Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles and with IndyCar staff concerning the logistics of how to get the family to the hospital. My role at the hospital is to help the family in any way I can," said Hills talking about the Crisis Intervention role the Ministry plays.

I asked Hills what his role was in dealing this past week with regard to the situation with Wilson. " I know Justin's wife and Stefan and I went to help them out. I translate the doctors words for them and suggest what steps should be taken, such as tests or treatment. In a crisis situation, you need an outside person to help you work through the decisions that have to be made."

Hills and the Ministry also take a lead in organizing other activities at the race track. Last year at the season finale at Auto Club Speedway, I had I had the pleasure of assisting Bob in organizing a year end party for the teams, the evening before the final race. We had some entertainment lined up and Bob had food and beverages donated for the festive evening. The plans were modified due to Mikhail Aleshin's practice crash, which sent Hills to the hospital. Although the gathering was somewhat muted, a few of the teams were still able to partake in an evening of food and drink, which Bob's wife Ruthie greeted guests on behalf of the Ministry.

Granted, you don't see Hills and his staff in the Winners' Circle or on the front page of any newspapers. Still, IndyCar Ministry plays a vital role behind-the-scenes in providing support to the entire IndyCar community. And anyone who has ever travelled with the series knows it would be hard to imagine IndyCar without Bob and the Ministry.

So the next race you attend, checkout the Sunday services and don't be afraid to put a donation in that envelope in support of the very unique services IndyCar Ministry brings to our sport.

Lucille Dust

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