University of North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora became a NASCAR fan watching the sport on television. He fell head-over-heels in love with it during a trip to Martinsville Speedway last spring
"Last year at Martinsville was my first short-track race and it was phenomenal," said Fedora. "That's where it's at. It's non-stop action all the time. It's exciting and high-tempo. It's pretty special at Martinsville."
Fedora will be in the middle of all the Martinsville action, at least for a few laps, as the honorary pace car driver for the STP 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race on March 30.
"I'm extremely excited ... I really can't tell you how excited I am," Fedora said of his upcoming pace-car duties. "I've done a ride-along and I plan on driving a race car one day, but this is the biggest thing for me so far."
Fedora took over a UNC program in 2012 that was facing NCAA sanctions and a year of bowl ineligibility, but forged ahead with an eight-win inaugural season and coached the Tar Heels to a Belk Bowl victory in 2013.
"We've done OK the last two years, but we've got a long way to go," said Fedora, whose teams are traditionally known for aggressive play on the field and high graduation rates off the field. "We're slowly changing the culture of football here. We are going to have a blue collar team. We want to play smart, fast and physical."
Fedora said when he was at Martinsville last year, he spent a lot of time roaming the pits where he met several drivers, including Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. He was invited into Gordon's hauler and happened upon the team's pre-race meeting, led by crew chief Alan Gustafson.
"I was in Jeff Gordon's trailer before the race for the team meeting. It was like a pregame speech. I had no idea it was like that with the pit crews," said Fedora. "I don't know all that crew chiefs do, but it's managing people and getting them excited. That team meeting reminded me of football. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up."
Tickets to the STP 500 on March 30, the Kroger 250 on March 29 and Pole Day on March 28 can be purchased by calling 1.877.RACE.TIX. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.
Tickets for youth 12 and under are just $10 in the Clay Earles Tower, rows 15-52. Teen tickets (ages 13-17) in the same area are $25. Youth and teen ticket prices are good with the purchase of an adult ticket. Youth 12 and under are admitted free to the Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on March 29 and to Pole Day on March 28.