November 6 NASCAR Championship Weekend

Friday, February 1, 2008
Out-of-town visitors, celebrities make their way to the track before big game
The New England Patriots and New York Giants may be the showdown of great significance this Sunday in Super Bowl XLII in nearby Glendale, but today, on the Friday morning before one of sport's greatest spectacles, the highlighted matchup took place off of the gridiron.

NBA legend Rick Barry vs. Phoenix International Raceway.

Barry was the first of several celebrities in town for the big game to take part in the Richard Petty Driving Experience program this weekend at PIR. A 15-year professional basketball veteran who once traded elbows with greats like Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, Barry has certainly seen his share of the extraordinary in sports, but nothing could have prepared him for his hot laps around PIR’s 1-mile oval.

At 6’7", the 8-time NBA All-Star towered over the other drivers and riders at the RPDE’s opening session of the weekend, but surprisingly, it took little additional effort for Barry to climb into the No. 29 Shell Pennzoil Chevrolet replica car for his ride. Following his blazing tour around PIR, Barry strode confidently out of the Kevin Harvick mockup, seemingly ready to take the wheel - and maybe even drive a Sprint Cup Series race himself.

There was to be no race this weekend, but Barry did climb into the driver’s seat of the No. 43 car later in the day, in which he turned eight laps for one of the fastest sessions of the morning.

"This is such a rush,” said Barry. “It’s so cool. It’s easy!

“The hardest part of it for me was getting out of the car,” he added.

Super Bowl pre-game performer and country singer Sara Evans and personalities from ESPN are among the others that are scheduled to visit PIR during the big weekend, and Sprint Cup Series drivers Carl Edwards and J.J. Yeley are set to drop by the track as well.

Barry will be back in town February 27 and 28 as a celebrity participant in Kyle Petty’s Victory Invitational Celebrity Golf Tournament, which will raise funds for the Victory Junction Gang Camp and the Arizona State University College of Nursing & Healthcare Innovation.

For more information about Kyle Petty’s Victory Invitational Celebrity Golf Tournament, visit

Interested participants can contact Kristie Maggs of Phoenix International Raceway at 866-408-RACE (7223) or at Interested sponsors may reach Jon Sata at the same phone number or at

Tickets to April 12’s SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500™ at PIR are still available, but moving quickly. More information can be found online at, at, or over the phone at 1-866-408-RACE (7223).

Who knows? Maybe, by then, Rick Barry will have his NASCAR license, and if he can qualify like he drove at PIR today, he could bring some NBA flavor to the 43-car field. Get your tickets and find out!

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