CONCORD, N.C. — Nine-time world champion motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi joined NASCAR driver Kyle Busch at Charlotte Motor Speedway April 22, taking a turn behind the wheel of a Monster Energy NASCAR Nationwide Series machine adorned with Rossi’s No. 46.
Busch walked Rossi, who has some road racing experience in cars, around the stock car explaining its particulars.
From there, Rossi was given a headset and listened in while Busch put in numerous high-speed laps on the fabled oval. Upon pulling into the pit area, the two racers conferred with one another, Busch downloading information to help get Rossi up to speed as quickly as possible.
When the moment of truth came, Rossi climbed into the steel tube framed car, flipped the switch and the 358-cubic-inch, 650-horsepower engine fired to life in a deep V8 growl.
Rossi then dumped the clutch, fired through the gear pattern and motored out onto the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. A superspeedway with four 24-degree banked turns,
Once he got the car up to speed – around 185 miles per hour – Rossi became more and more comfortable, and in doing so, his lap times dropped dramatically. When it was over, Rossi removed his helmet and climbed out of the car with a big smile on his face.
“It was so cool to understand the feeling,” said Rossi. “I have a lot of friends from Europe and Italy who follow NASCAR. It looks like it’s a completely different type of racing than what we do in Europe and I expected something more like this — exciting, high speed and a great feeling in the corner. In the bank you have a lot of grip, so you are glued on the race track. It was great. I enjoyed it a lot. I love driving the race car and I always have, so it was exciting to drive a NASCAR stock car.”
Rossi credited Busch for helping him get acquainted with the car.
“At the beginning it was a bit strange because it’s difficult to go straight,” Rossi said. “But after some laps, I had a lot of confidence and I was able to go faster and faster and faster. I must say I got along very well with Kyle. He’s a good guy. I like him and he gave me a lot of important advice.”
Busch was impressed with Rossi’s NASCAR driving skills.
“I thought it was a really cool experience and it also helps when you have two guys who are enthusiastic about their sport and have a good mantra about it,” said Busch. “I think Rossi is a really cool dude. We were just having fun, hanging out together. To me, I thought the experience was awesome. It’s cool Monster Energy brought us together, it was a lot of fun. Just getting the feeling of asking him about his sport and him asking me about NASCAR a little bit. Just having the dialogue there was good.”
Joe Gibbs, who owns the Monster Energy Nationwide cars, is also a two-wheel racing enthusiast and was on hand for the event.
“Well it’s exciting, you’ve got Kyle and Valentino — someone that is great on four wheels and someone that is great on two wheels,” said Gibbs. “I think you can even see that everyone here gets hyped up about it too. I think it was a fun deal and it was a lot of fun to be a part of it. I thought Valentino did really well, as a matter of fact I’m thinking about offering him a contract.”