Calipari to be honorary pace car driver

June 20, 2013, NASCAR.com

John Calipari

Kentucky men's basketball coach to lead field for Quaker State 400 on June 29

Both newcomers to the state of Kentucky over the past few years, University of Kentucky men's basketball head coach John Calipari and Sprint Cup Series racing will team up when the hoops guru will be the honorary Ford Fusion pace car driver for Kentucky Speedways's Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts.

The Wildcats head coach since 2009, Calipari led Kentucky to its first NCAA championship in over a decade in 2012. On June 29, he’ll lead a 43-car field to the green flag for the 7:30 p.m. start in just the third Cup Series race in track history.

"It's kind of like walking out in the Final Four and having your team behind you, excited and ready to go,” said Calipari in a Kentucky Speedway press 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.

"The speed of it is what gets everybody hyped and understanding the courage of those drivers. We sit up in the stands and know how fast they are going, yet they have the courage to be inches from each other at that speed and have the vision and wherewithal to say 'I'm doing this, we're gonna get this done'. Having a bunch of them that are the best in the world at what they do in one setting like this is going to be unbelievably exciting," Calipari said.

Opened for NASCAR competition in 2000, Kentucky Speedway has regularly held Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series events since its inception, but added Sprint Cup racing to its schedule in 2011.

"We welcome Coach Calipari back to our speedway and look forward to him leading one of the quickest fast breaks in history of our commonwealth," Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger said.

The Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts will be the finale for the speedway's tripleheader NASCAR weekend. Racing begins Thursday, June 27 with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 and continues Friday, June 28 with the NASCAR Nationwide Series Feed The Children 300.