Pat Summitt, wearing the official No. 60 Roush Fenway Race Car shirt, sat on the dais Friday with Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, as the announcement was made at Thompson-Boling Arena with the official car under wraps just outside the door of the press conference room.
“Today, it’s my great honor to announce that the legendary Pat Summitt will serve as the grand marshal for the 20th anniversary of the Food City 250,” said John Jones of Food City. “She’ll say the most famous words in NASCAR when she gives the command to the drivers to start their engines.”
It will be a first for Summitt to serve as grand marshal, but it won’t be her first NASCAR event. The head coach emeritus of Lady Vols basketball said she attended a race many years ago.
“I think Pat needs to be the crew chief for the day or something,
because she’s a winner and a legend, and this is a really big deal,” Bayne said. “To hear her say, ‘Gentlemen, start
your engines,’ and to have her name on the car, I might have a leg up on everybody else. It’s incredible, having the orange and blue and white.
“The first time I went to Bristol, I wore a Tennessee hat, and it had nothing to do with our sponsor, but this time, I have an orange race car.
“The fans are going to love it, everybody loves Pat Summitt. She’s just such a likeable person and such a strong leader, and that’s what you have to have in any kind of racing or basketball. It translates back and forth across the board, so it’s an honor to have that.”
Summitt helped pull off the cover to reveal the orange “We Back Pat” Ford Mustang that Bayne will drive at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 24 in the Nationwide Series. Bayne, who was seeing the car for the first time, told Summitt that he would be sure to protect the hood during the race.
Bayne showed Summitt how to get into and out of the car – and she gamely tried – but opted to stop halfway into the process. Summitt was the target of multiple photo opportunities – the event was well attended by media and sponsors – and she also walked over to the bank of cameras to handle interviews.
“I couldn’t even get in the car,” Summitt said. “Did y’all see that?”
Summitt, who is known for putting the pedal to the metal in her Mercedes, agreed to spin around the track with Bayne at some point before the race, though the coach will take the passenger seat.
Summitt and Bayne signed the dashboard of the car, and Summitt signed under both the front and back hoods. As the car was being pushed to reload into a trailer, Summitt joined the crew and helped get the No. 60 vehicle outside.
Bayne enjoyed immediate success a year ago when he won NASCAR’s signature event in Daytona, and, as is common in the sport, has struggled at times since then.
Last March Bayne was in need of a sponsor and YourRaceCar.com, which is led by a group of investors from Knoxville, stepped up for him.
“It all started about a week before the Bristol race this March,” said Preston Garland of YourRaceCar.com. “A group of four local investors got together and found out that Trevor needed a sponsor at Bristol. We were excited about seeing him there on the track. We got together a week beforehand and pulled it all together and started YourRaceCar.com.
“Our concept behind YourRaceCar.com was that someone could go on our website, and any fan could be a part of the experience of racing. About a month ago, we started working with everyone who is involved in our announcement today, from the Pat Summitt Foundation, to Roush Fenway, to the Bristol Motor Speedway and Food City, and the university.”
That working model will also apply for the “We Back Pat” car with the intent of raising funds for Pat Summitt’s Foundation.
Fans can order T-shirts and caps and have their name placed on the car at We Back Pat Racing.
“It’s a whole new concept, and I think it’s special to them,
it’s special to me, and I’ll try to take care of it,” Bayne said. “The names have to be legible at the end.”
Additional corporate sponsors also are being sought for the official “We Back Pat” car, and those interested can call 858-876-2632 or email Info@YourRaceCar.com.
At the end of the race season, the car will be auctioned to raise money for Summitt’s foundation.
The full transcript of Friday’s press conference can be read by CLICKING HERE.
Tickets for the Food City 250 can be bought online by CLICKING HERE FOR BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY.
Summitt announced last summer that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia. She stayed on the sideline last season and then stepped down in April to take the role of head coach emeritus. Holly Warlick, her longtime assistant, has taken the reins of the program.
Summitt’s sense of humor was on display Friday and she sounded ready to coach Bayne, if need be.
“I’ll definitely stare him down if he messes up,” Summitt said.
INSIDE TENNESSEE VIDEO COVERAGE
Trevor Bayne, Preston Garland
Food City’s John Jones
Trevor Bayne media interview
Pat Summitt media interview
Pat Summitt and the ‘We Back Pat’ car