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

Leave a comment

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.”

source:
Photo: INDYCAR

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
3 Comments

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.