(AP) Kentucky coach Calipari to drive pace car
By GARY GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
The only thing threatening to keep Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari from driving the (fast) lane before Saturday night’s NASCAR race was rain.
Initially slated to ride shotgun as the honorary pace car driver for the 400-mile Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway, Calipari was asked to drive the Ford Fusion leading the 43-car field to the green flag.
Calipari agreed and received crash-course instruction from Cup driver Kurt Busch, whose 90-mph splits in the rain around the 1.5-mile oval had the coach “white-knuckled” and holding on tightly on the passenger side. Fortunately for Calipari, he only has to drive a more comfortable 45 mph ahead of the field.
The question was whether Calipari’s dream would be stopped by showers that threatened to delay the scheduled start.
Besides instruction from the 2004 Cup champion, Calipari got a specially-made racing jacket embroidered with the terms “eight-time” _ referring to Kentucky’s eight national championships _ and his trademark “Refuse to Lose” slogan. Drivers also signed the jacket, which will be auctioned for charity.
Calipari seemed happier at the prospect of being an active participant in NASCAR, a sport Calipari said he has followed since his days at the University of Massachusetts. The process involved going on the thrill ride of his life.