For current Dallas Cowboys Bradie James and Alan Ball, along with former Cowboy Nate Newton and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfielder Vernon Wells, training and agility is a part of their jobs as athletes. On Tuesday, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch offered up a different training lesson - in high speed.
Busch, along with the quartet of athletes and members of the media, took to the 1.5-mile speedway to participate in Kurt's Busch League All Stars driving school to help promote next week's AAA Texas 500 NASCAR triple-header at Texas Motor Speedway. Busch provided the participants with an enhanced experience of what it's like to walk in the shoes of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver on race day.
This was more than a special opportunity to run a Team Texas stock car at up to speeds of 150 miles around the high banks of "The Great American Speedway!" The driving school event came with all the bells and whistles.
The participants were greeted by an infield media center that was converted into a pro-style locker room. Each participant had their own locker with their nameplate, one-day contract with Kurt's Busch League All Stars sitting to be signed and their AAA firesuit, AAA Texas 500 ballcap and event t-shirt hanging inside.
The group was treated to a special "Chalk Talk" session with Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage and Busch, who touched on a variety of subjects ranging from the nuances of driving the 1.5-mile oval to all the obligations he has leading up to moments before the green flag.
The their official race day began with driver introductions on stage in front of a mosh pit of fans and piped-in crowd applause, followed by the National Anthem sung by Texas Motor Speedway's own Steve Daniels and a fly-by from an F-18. Well, taped fly-by anyway.
The memorable on-track activity consisted of a 10-lap driving experience followed by an exhilarating three-lap ride-along in a stock car with none other than Busch. The day was culminated with post-race activity that included an official Victory Lane celebration complete with Gossage, new "Great American Sweetheart!" Katie, AAA Texas 500 trophy and, of course, the Turnbull six shooters and Charlie 1 Horse cowboy hat.
The drivers then returned to the locker room, where Busch presented each with a framed certificate with their fastest lap time and speed.
For all the athletes, including James, they gained a better appreciation for what Busch and the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers endure during a race.
"It was unbelievable," James said about his experience. "You have to be an athlete, you got to be able to control the car, just think about going 100-plus miles per hour with other cars. There were just six of us out here. I can't imagine 42 other cars out there at one time. Just the maneuverability you have and not to mention the stamina. I'm soaking wet right now (after 10 laps), so I can't imagine what it's like when its 100 degrees out here."
Wells topped the charts among the athletes with a speed of 138.16 mph. He was followed by Ball with a speed of 137.79 mph; James with a speed of 122.62 mph; and Newton with the slowest speed of 115.36 mph.
"It was a great day on the track," Ball said. "I had a good time and it was definitely an experience. There's a lot that goes into it that I didn't know about and I'm excited that I got to see it."
The athletes were not the only ones to shine. Taking the top prize during the morning session was Houston Chronicle motorsports reporter Russ Goodall with a speed of 142.11 mph. Topping the afternoon session was Dallas Cowboys Assistant Director of Player Personnel Todd Williams with a speed of 139.53 mph.
To view more details from the event, please click here.