Off-Track


A look back at NASCAR drivers' opening pitches

July 16, 2013, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com

A look back at NASCAR drivers' opening pitches
On night of MLB All-Star Game, see how NASCAR drivers stack up

No one will mistake their pitching form or velocity for that of Max Scherzer or Matt Harvey -- the AL and NL starting pitchers for tonight’s MLB All-Star Game -- but several NASCAR drivers can relate to pressure on the mound.

After all, a number of drivers have thrown out opening pitches at Major League Baseball games this season, under the watchful eye of pointed cameras and recording iPhones.

With baseball’s Mid-Summer Classic scheduled to begin Tuesday night at 8 ET, here’s a quick look back at some of the drivers who have thrown out opening pitches in 2013:

Kevin Harvick and Bobby Labonte. The two veterans threw out the opening pitches to the Cincinnati Reds-Pittsburgh Pirates game on June 17 at Great American Ball Park.

Before their show of arms, the two signed autographs for Reds fans in an appearance ahead of the Sprint Cup Series’ race at Kentucky Speedway, which is less than 45 minutes from Cincinnati.

Luckily for all of us, Harvick’s wife DeLana made a Vine of the outing.

Before Harvick and Labonte taking the mound -- or rather, standing just in front of it – defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski had the honors on June 6 before the Reds played the Colorado Rockies.

Keselowski had previously tossed out the first pitch in 2010 at Comerica Park in Detroit and used that experience to get the ball over the plate.

Brad Keselowski's opening pitch was, in the words of announcer Harry Doyle from the movie "Major League", just a bit outside.

Aric Almirola gave up a baseball career to drive cars. Almirola doesn’t regret the decision, especially now that he has a Sprint Cup Series ride with Richard Petty Motorsports, in the No. 43 no less.

Still, Almirola, a Florida native, stays close to the game he loved as a child. The Tampa Bay Rays welcomed him back on June 26 in a promotional stop two weeks before the Coke Zero 400.

Given his baseball background, it was no surprise when Almirola fired a strike.

Aric Almirola was a star shortstop growing up and played baseball at the same high school that produced MLB talents Gary Sheffield and Dwight Gooden.

Matt Kenseth grew up in Wisconsin. Naturally, he’s a Milwaukee Brewers fan. He didn’t hesitate to throw out the opening pitch July 8, in a game Milwaukee ultimately won against the Reds, 4-3.

Two days later, Kenseth, who tweets sparingly, sent out this picture. Clearly, he was excited to meet “Mr. Baseball” Bob Uecker.

Matt Kenseth was wearing a No. 20 jersey, representing his car number with Joe Gibbs Racing, when he met Bob Uecker.

Perhaps more than any other driver, Kurt Busch is actively engaged in supporting the military. That makes sense, especially given that his girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll is the head of the Armed Forces Foundation.

Busch’s opening pitch at Baltimore, which included autograph signings before and after the event, was part of the AFF’s campaign to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and military suicide prevention efforts. After he left the field, Busch joined 10 soldiers currently receiving treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to watch the game against the Cleveland Indians in a suite.

Kurt Busch got a little face time with The Oriole Bird and Baltimore infielder Ryan Flaherty.