CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Not a lot scares Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis so he was comfortable going a few laps around Charlotte Motor Speedway at 165 mph with NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Davis, this year’s NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year, was selected to be the honorary pace car driver for the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday.
He got a chance Tuesday to test out the pace car on the one-and-a-half mile track before jumping in a stock car with Earnhardt, who took him on five high-speed laps around the race track.
“That was an adrenaline rush,” Davis said as he emerged from Earnhardt’s No. 88 Nationwide car with a smile.
The man who has made a living out of hitting running back and quarterbacks said the speed didn’t frighten him.
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound Davis spent his five laps filming from the passenger seat so he could show his kids. He later posted the event on social media for his fans to see.
Earnhardt said he pushed the car to the max, but it didn’t seem to make the 10-year NFL veteran flinch.
“He’s hard to scare,” Earnhardt said. “I imagine he’s seen just about every possible coming at him on the (football) field. … I ran that thing as hard as it would go. He wasn’t impressed. He was filming the whole thing with his phone like he was riding down the interstate.”
Despite growing up near the Charlotte area, Earnhardt has always been a fan of the Washington Redskins.
While he has no plans to change his allegiance to the Redskins, he said meeting Davis and some other Carolina players like tight end Greg Olsen has changed his opinion of his hometown Panthers. He likes them a lot more now and appreciates what they have done in the community.
Earnhardt’s focus is on the Coca-Cola 600.
He was a non-factor Saturday night in the All-Star race, but hopes to change all of that this weekend on a track where he desperately wants to win.
“We didn’t run that well in the All-Star race and it was struggle when he got further back,” Earnhardt said. “We are going to come with a different setup, a different car and go a different route and see if we can improve.”
Davis will lead him and 42 other drivers to the green flag Sunday.
A self-described NASCAR fan, Davis said he has been to a few races before — but this will be his first time in the pace car.
Davis, who has recovered from three torn ACLs in the same knee and returned to play at a high level, knows the end of his career is coming in the not-so-distant future. He still has plenty of things he wants to accomplish, including winning a Super Bowl ring before he retires.
Riding shotgun with Earnhardt, though, was more thing to scratch off his bucket list.
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