AVONDALE, Arizona – Arizona Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick experienced a new kind of adrenaline rush before the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix: He got a ride with Mario Andretti in the two-seat Indy car.
“It’s crazy. It’s a big rush and it’s fun but it’s definitely crazy,” Reddick said after taking the ride in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater before Saturday night’s race. “The adrenaline you feel here is way different than football. With football, you’ve got a little more control of things. Here, it’s crazy.”
Reddick and Cardinals cornerback Rudy Ford, who also took a ride with Andretti, were among the celebrities who attended the race. Paul Newman’s daughter Clea served as the grand marshal, giving the command for drivers to start their engines, and Frankie Muniz, best known for playing the title character in the sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle,” took a two-seater ride, too.
The VIPs toured the garages, snapped pictures with Andretti and Verizon IndyCar Series drivers and watched the race from team pits.
Meanwhile, another set of celebrities toured ISM Raceway: Arizona State University’s 942 Crew, a group of students known for the “Curtain of Distraction,” a black curtain that is famously used to distract opposing teams from making free throws at ASU games when it opens and the group, wearing crazy costumes, pops out. After Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud attended an ASU game and helped them as celebrity guests in February, the students wanted to return the favor.
The students brought a portable version of their curtain, dressed in their costumes and surprised Kanaan and Pagenaud, who were delighted to see them just before the start of the race.
942 Crew member Austin Combs won a drawing among the students to take a two-seat Indy car ride. In the process, he wound up meeting Andretti and getting a photo with another racing legend, A.J. Foyt.
“My day was one of the best experiences I’ve had. I got to see A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti, who are my dad’s childhood heroes,” Combs said, adding that until Saturday the fastest he’d gone was about 100 mph on an amusement park ride. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime. This is some bucket list type stuff.”