The stirring sounds of the Singing Surgeons and Jim Cornelison highlight pre-race festivities for the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, Aug. 23, performing live at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the emotional and historic countdown to “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Dr. Elvis Francois and Dr. William Robinson, who went viral in March with their Instagram rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Cornelison, a powerful tenor and an IMS fan favorite, returns for his fourth consecutive performance of “Back Home Again in Indiana.”
NBC’s broadcast begins Sunday at 1 p.m. (ET), with WTHR-13 airing the coverage in Central Indiana.
“In these most unusual times, we are proud to produce a live Race Day show that will translate the tension, emotion and pageantry of Race Day to a global audience,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “Elvis and William are two remarkable individuals whose performance will pay tribute to the heroes on the front lines of our nation’s continued fight against COVID-19. Jim has become part of the ‘500’ fabric with his passion for IMS and INDYCAR, and I know everyone in Indiana and honorary Hoosiers across the globe will shed tears as he hits the high notes of ‘Back Home Again’ on this unique Race Day.”
The Singing Surgeons provided a special tribute to fellow front-line health care workers during the “Indy 500 Special: Back Home Again” broadcast on NBC on Sunday, May 24. They performed “God Bless America” on the historic Yard of Bricks.
As residents at the Mayo Clinic, Francois and Robinson performed for patients for several years, delivering emotional support alongside medical treatment to those in need. Following their viral debut, the pair recorded a special EP, “Music is Medicine,” with proceeds going to the Center of Disaster Philanthropy COVID-19 Response Fund. While both doctors have recently completed their Mayo Clinic residency, the two good friends have stayed in close touch and are eager to reunite at the Racing Capital of the World.
“We’re honored and humbled to perform the national anthem at ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’” Francois and Robinson said. “IMS is a fantastic venue that fills us with awe every time we visit. While we’re all sad fans won’t be at this year’s race, our performance will carry a message of hope and optimism as we pay tribute to the heroes fighting COVID-19 each and every day.”
Cornelison is known to sports fans as the powerful voice behind “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Chicago Blackhawks’ home games. He first wowed “500” fans and viewers in 2017, generating widespread praise on social media. He is the first “Back Home Again in Indiana” singer in consecutive years since the legendary Jim Nabors appeared for the 36th and final time in 2014.
“It is such an honor and privilege to return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as the Indianapolis 500 is a tradition known around the world,” Cornelison said. “Each year I am humbled by the response from the INDYCAR fans, and I know this year’s performance carries extra meaning under such extraordinary circumstances. I’ll miss the roar of the crowd, but I’ll carry the wonderful fans of IMS with me as I sing. This performance is for them.”
For more than 100 years, the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race presented by Gainbridge has taken place in May in conjunction with Memorial Day. This year’s race was originally scheduled for Sunday, May 24, but was rescheduled to Sunday, Aug. 23, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sunday’s race will be led to the green flag by third-generation driver Marco Andretti, who earned the pole position for the first time in his “500” career. Andretti’s grandfather, legendary 1969 Indy 500 winner Mario Andretti, won the pole three times, the most recent in 1987.
The 33-car field is the second-fastest in Indianapolis 500 history, and it includes eight former “500” winners and five rookies. Rinus VeeKay, 19, of The Netherlands is starting fourth, the best starting position for a teenage driver in the race’s history.