Joe Namath: Visiting Barber IndyCar weekend a “joyful experience”

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Beaver Falls, Pa.’s Joe Namath is an honorary Alabaman, after playing at the University of Alabama – and Sunday morning in his duties as Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama grand marshal, he had the chance to do a little home cooking.

Among part of the pre-race festivities, Namath, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden and a chef from Taste of the South Magazine performed a brief beef-and-veggie kabob cooking demonstration on the Namath Rapid Cooker.

But that was only part of what made Namath’s trip to a Verizon IndyCar Series race a memorable one. He also met A.J. Foyt, toured the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, received a No. 12 rear wing endplate off Will Power’s car and represented the Arthritis Foundation of Alabama.

“I felt a camaraderie with Josef, because of the uniqueness of his spelling,” Namath told MotorSportsTalk in an exclusive interview. “From my ethnicity, my full name is spelled a little differently too. He’s a treat.

“But all of these guys – they’re stars, they’re experts at what they do. They work within the team situation. I’m impressed being around them. They’re remarkable people.”

Both the IndyCar paddock and the Barber Motorsports Park facility awed Namath, who has been to racetracks before but not for a significant time period.

“The changes are amazing to me that I see with the cars and the bikes, going through that museum. One of our few constants in life is to change, and that’s been done,” Namath said.

“This is a joyful experience. I did a little homework before I came over to this facility, Mr. Barber’s facility. I know Birmingham; I’ve been through Leeds many times. But I was just stunned to see this track, and how beautiful it is, and to learn what the drivers think. It’s spectacular.”

Namath is not alone among iconic football greats serving as the “HIGPA” grand marshal the last few years. Fellow Alabama graduate and Super Bowl I and II MVP Bart Starr of the Green Bay Packers served as grand marshal in in 2012; two-sport star Bo Jackson did so last year.

“I have a tremendous amount respect for both of them,” said Namath. “Bart Starr I have learned some things about how to conduct myself in a classier way. Bo Jackson, I watched him and I learned I wasn’t so good an athlete that I thought I was, compared to him.”

Lastly Namath expanded on teamwork. It was something that, despite his “heard ‘round the world” guarantee ahead of Super Bowl III, he needed the rest of the New York Jets to help pull off to complete the upset of the Baltimore Colts.

Racing, too, much like the NFL requires a huge team effort – if you equate the driver to the quarterback, the pit crew is the offensive line providing the necessary support.

“I like to emphasize that life is a team effort,” Namath said. “There’s very few people that do anything on their own. So let’s start out teaching the youngsters, teaching people how important it is to feel how lucky they are have others trying to help them. It’s not about me, or I, all the time. We have personal responsibilities, but life itself is a team effort.”

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Photo: INDYCAR

Rebellion confirms LMP1 return, all-star line-up for WEC super season

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Rebellion Racing has confirmed it will return to the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship for the 2018/19 ‘super season’ with an all-star line-up featuring Le Mans winners Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer.

Rebellion raced in LMP1 as a privateer between 2009 and 2016 before stepping down to LMP2 for the most recent season, capturing the class titles at the first attempt.

Following a push from the WEC and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) to make LMP1 more appealing to privateer teams, Rebellion announced on Wednesday it would return to the premier class for the 2018/19 season with a two-car effort.

WEC LMP2 champion Bruno Senna will return with Rebellion next year, as will Mathias Beche, with the pair set to be joined by four new faces.

The most notable arrivals are Porsche factory drivers Lotterer and Jani, both of whom were left without an LMP1 drive following the closure of the German manufacturer’s program at the end of the season.

American racer Gustavo Menezes will also join Rebellion, stepping up after two years in LMP2, while outstanding 2017 rookie Thomas Laurent completes the Swiss team’s line-up.

“I am looking forward to coming back where my endurance career started nine years ago,” said Jani.

“Rebellion Racing played a huge role in my career and also helped me become a factory driver for Porsche. When Porsche stopped in LMP1, it was clear for me that I wanted to race again for Rebellion.

“With the new regulations, I hope we can reach the overall podium at Le Mans and with a bit of luck, maybe we can even grab some wins during the super season of WEC.”

“I am very happy to join the champion Rebellion team,” added three-time Le Mans winner Lotterer.

“The LMP1 project is very exciting and to be able to go on with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA WEC challenge is something I did not want to miss.

“I am motivated and looking forward to have a great time with great people there.”