Off-Track


Crossing over: Which athletes we wish to see in NASCAR

December 29, 2013, RJ Kraft, NASCAR.com

Hope Solo

What athletes, past and present, would be interesting to see in NASCAR

This is the second of a two-part series offering a fantasy look at NASCAR drivers and athletes from other sports crossing over into different sporting worlds. Click here to read the first part.

Donovan McNabb’s controversial comments last month in which he said Jimmie Johnson was not an athlete really hit a nerve with a lot of folks.

The two have spoken since the comments were made and Johnson hopes to get the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback to the track and possibly in a race car sometime this season.

So that got us thinking: What athletes, both current and retired from other sports, would we like to see behind the wheel of a NASCAR race car?

There have been several notable athletes like Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders to cross over to play a second sport or play two sports at the same time. There are some pit crew members that have backgrounds in other sports like Aaron Walker, who was a fifth-round pick of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers in 2003. Walker served as a jackman for Penske Racing’s NASCAR Nationwide Series team and the No. 7 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team of Tommy Baldwin Racing this past season.

Donovan McNabb, former NFL quarterback
No list would be complete without the man who ignited a firestorm of controversy with his words, saying that Johnson was "not an athlete" the weekend before Johnson won his sixth Sprint Cup championship. Johnson, for his part, has taken the high road and is working to get McNabb to come out to the track. Getting in a race car won over former NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal, who once raced Dale Earnhardt Jr. on a short track for a television program. Following the experience, O'Neal said, "whoever said these guys aren't athletes are out of their minds." Perhaps McNabb would feel the same after his experience.

LeBron James, forward with the NBA's Miami Heat
James is arguably one of the best athletes, if not the best athlete, in sports right now and in that regard, you would love to see what he could do trying his hand at a different sport. James has succeeded thus far in every athletic pursuit he has been involved in, so perhaps he would succeed in NASCAR, too. His drive, desire and competitiveness could make him a weekly force on the track.

Hope Solo, U.S. Women's Soccer team goalkeeper
If Solo were a race car driver, she would be one of the best post-race interviews in the sport's history. Solo has a history of speaking her mind, and depending on how a race went, there is no telling what she might say. Solo drove the pace car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before the 2011 Sprint Cup Series race there and certainly seemed to enjoy the experience.

Usain Bolt, track superstar
Widely regarded as the fastest sprinter in the world and a winner of six gold medals in the Olympics, it would be fun to see how much speed Bolt could generate behind the wheel of a race car. The 27-year-old has long held an interest in one day playing soccer, but the thought here is he should continue to generate speed, just in a different arena. It wouldn't be a clear transition from the running track to the race track, but it would be a fun one to watch.

Randy Johnson, former MLB pitcher
Now that he is retired from baseball, Johnson has been spotted taking photos at tracks after starting his own business, Randy Johnson Photography. As a pitcher, Johnson used his 6-10 frame to stare down and intimidate hitters before blowing them around with his electric 100-mph fastball. With his big frame, Johnson sometimes had a lack of control on his pitches, leading to one famous incident in the 1993 MLB All-Star Game in which the "Big Unit" sailed a fastball over then-Philadelphia Phillies first baseman John Kruk's head. The fun here would be seeing Johnson (who would become the tallest NASCAR driver ever) get in the car and then how he would react on the track. For someone who had no trouble sailing fastballs up-and-in, it would be interesting to see how he reacted to that first tap on his bumper.

Muggsy Bogues, former NBA player
Bogues played college ball (Wake Forest University) and spent most of his NBA career (Charlotte Hornets) in the state of North Carolina, the hotbed of NASCAR activity. The thing that is intriguing here, besides the fact that it's Muggsy Bogues and he is pretty much well-liked by everyone, is the fact that his height (5-3) benefits him in this setting. That's not to say it didn’t help him in basketball, but a 5-3 point guard wasn't exactly the prototype. We're mainly curious as to how Bogues, with his energetic personality, would fare in the sport.

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