Wednesday, 18 September 2019

NASCAR: Mario Andretti to drive pace car at Charlotte roval – Beyond the Flag

NASCAR: Mario Andretti to drive pace car at Charlotte roval – Beyond the Flag
25 Aug

World-renowned racing legend Mario Andretti is set to return to NASCAR to drive the pace car at the Charlotte Motor Speedway roval.

Even at 79 years old, racing legend Mario Andretti is still no stranger to high speeds. He still drives the two-seater Honda IndyCar on a regular basis, and he has done so with not only fans but athletes and celebrities including but not limited to Stephen Curry, Lady Gaga, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Julian Edelman, Aly Raisman, Mike Tirico, Ice T, Tony Dungy and MC Hammer as his passengers.

But next month, he is set to take on a slightly different role.

The Nazareth, Pennsylvania native is set to serve as the pace car driver for the Bank of America Roval 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway roval, which is the third and final race of the first of four rounds of the 10-race 2019 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Andretti is set to lead the field to the green flag behind the wheel of the Toyota Camry XSE pace car on Sunday, September 29 for the second annual installment of this event, which was a thriller in every which way in its inaugural season last year.

The 1967 Daytona 500 champion, 1969 Indianapolis 500 champion, 1978 Formula 1 champion and four-time IndyCar champion played a role in the development process of the 17-turn, 2.28-mile (3.669-kilometer) Charlotte Motor Speedway roval in Concord, North Carolina before it was officially added to the schedule ahead of the 2018 season.

Here is what Andretti had to say about this opportunity, according to NASCAR.

“When [Speedway Motorsports, Inc. president and CEO] Marcus Smith was creating the roval, he invited me to check out the improvements to the infield road course. It was such a fun course to drive and the more I drove it the more I got into a rhythm, but I knew it would be challenging to the NASCAR competitors with the elevation change and transition from road course to oval.

After last year’s successful playoff debut for the course, I’m honored that Marcus would ask me to return to lead the field to green for this year’s Bank of America Roval 400.”

Here is what Smith had to add.

“Mario played an instrumental role in helping make the roval into the showpiece it is today. He test-drove a high-performance sports car on the course as we were in the process of figuring out what the roval could become. Even with me in the passenger seat, he hit 177 miles per hour, which is pretty incredible — but it was like a casual Sunday afternoon drive for Mario.

“I liked the higher speeds so I was hesitant, but after hearing it from someone of his caliber and expertise, it made even more sense to create chicanes on our straightaways. Mario’s forward thinking and his unparalleled vision for creating a spectacle contributed to the incredible finish we had last year with Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson.”

Next: Top 10 NASCAR drivers of all-time

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Tune in to NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET for the live broadcast of the Bank of America Roval 400 from the Charlotte Motor Speedway roval.



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