Six Pack of Pop: AJ McCarron
June 05, 2013, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
College football star AJ McCarron has made a name for himself on the gridiron, leading the University of Alabama to BCS national championship victories the last two seasons. Last May, the Crimson Tide quarterback joined former Daytona 500 champ Michael Waltrip as a special guest at Talladega Superspeedway, nearly two hours east of the Tuscaloosa campus. Waltrip drove a No. 55 Toyota paint scheme commemorating Alabama’s repeat national titles, and McCarron was the ceremonial pace car driver to start the Aaron’s 499.
McCarron met with the media, including NASCAR.com, before the event.
I know you’re used to driving your team down the field during games for the Crimson Tide, but today you’re going to be driving the pace car on the high banks of Talladega. What are your thoughts about that?
It’s awesome. It’s definitely going to be a special moment for myself and family members that are here to watch. Like Ricky Bobby said, “I’m ready to go fast.”
Who was your favorite racer growing up if you’re a fan and who are you pulling for this weekend?
My family is huge NASCAR fans. I was a big Bill Elliott fan and kind of went over to Kasey Kahne because he learned under him. Now I’m a big Dale Jr. fan, but we’re definitely all big NASCAR fans in my family.
What was it about Bill Elliott?
My dad was a big fan of Bill Elliott. I think the cool part of it, and I think Kasey drives the same way as him, he stays high sometimes and rides along the wall. I felt like he was always different. My dad rooted for him most of the time so I guess I just took after my dad on that a little. ... And I also liked McDonald’s when he drove that car.
There’s a big party and pregame-type atmosphere in college football and certainly, no place embodies that more than right here at Talladega. Can you compare and contrast the different atmospheres of race day and game day?
I know there’s a lot of Alabama fans who go to the football games who are going to be here, screaming “Roll Tide!” no matter what so I guess you can compare that. I think it’s too great fan bases who really show their passion for the sport. A lot of those things are similar.
With all the championships that you’ve won, where does this rank with the cool stuff you’ve gotten to do as the quarterback of the Tide?
It really is a special moment and I can’t thank Talladega enough and all the officials and everybody that’s a part of it in helping bring this opportunity to myself. It really is going to be a special moment. Like I always say, even the national championships, I have fun but I like watching my family enjoy the moment much more and them living out their dreams. That’s the best moment to me with all this.
You being the quarterback at the University of Alabama and also the drivers here at Talladega being part of a team, is there some uniqueness that you can compare you being the quarterback and the drivers being the quarterbacks of the teams?
Oh, definitely. This time last year, I got to sit in Clint Bowyer’s pit box and listen to his crew chief and him talk back and forth. It really does remind you of an offense type feeling, where there’s always got to be communication no matter what lap it is, and everyone’s got to be on the same page for things to go right. You can really, truly see it.