Kentucky Speedway announced on Wednesday that Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been named the honorary pace car driver for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400, which takes place on June 29.
In the release, Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger proclaimed the opening lap to be “one of the quickest fast breaks in the history of our commonwealth.” And for his part, Calipari is looking forward to taking part in the festivities.
“It’s kind of like walking out in the Final Four and having your team behind you, excited and ready to go,” Calipari said in the release. “The last time I was part of this event it was incredible. This is a great thing that brings our people together. The state of Kentucky takes great pride in the facility like it does in basketball, like it does in horseracing, like it does in bourbon.”
Calipari’s appearance isn’t the only college basketball-related aspect of this year’s Quaker State 400, as Brian Vickers’ car (and fire suit) for the event has a paint scheme that will honor the reigning national champion Louisville Cardinals.
This is the second consecutive year in which Michael Waltrip Racing has honored a national champion in this particular race, with Michael Waltrip driving a Kentucky-themed car in honor of the 2012 national champions.
“Like everyone in Kentucky I grew up watching basketball. It’s a part of our culture and tradition,” Waltrip said in the release announcing the new paint scheme for Vickers’ car. “We have so many great teams in our state that when March Madness rolls around it is just a great time of the year for everyone.
“Last year our Kentucky Wildcats won the championship and I got to race the car at Kentucky Speedway. This year we have the Louisville Cardinals on the car and we get to honor them as well. I’ve always been a huge fan of Rick Pitino and it means the world to me to join him and celebrate with Louisville.”
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.