A.J. Foyt, Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Namath swap helmets (VIDEO)

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Situated in Alabama, Barber Motorsports Park has the ability to use the state’s rich sports history in order to help promote its various races.

The road course outside Birmingham has brought in Alabama sports luminaries such as Charles Barkley, Bart Starr, and Bo Jackson to be Grand Marshal for its Verizon IndyCar Series races in the past.

And for this year’s running, the honor has gone to Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback “Broadway Joe” Namath, who led the Alabama Crimson Tide to the 1964 National Championship – five years before he followed through on his guarantee of victory at Super Bowl III with the New York Jets.

As part of his pre-race rounds, Namath met up with another legend in four-time Indianapolis 500 champion and current Verizon IndyCar Series team owner A.J. Foyt.

The two swapped helmets, with Foyt receiving an autographed ‘Bama football helmet with Namath’s famous No. 12…

…and Namath receiving an autographed 1960s racing helmet trimmed in Coyote Orange and bearing the message “It’s hell getting old!”

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver Josef Newgarden also showed Namath the technology behind the steering wheel on his No. 67 Honda…

…and then, the two joined with a chef from Taste of the South magazine for a cooking demonstration.

“To meet people that I was a fan of growing up, starting with A.J., is something else,” Namath told INDYCAR.com. “To see the young guys such as Josef Newgarden out there doing their thing surrounded by the teams…It’s amazing what they do in these super race cars.”

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/