Detroit sports stars enjoy first INDYCAR experience

Updated: 

DETROIT – A pair of Detroit sports superstars made their first visit to the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear on Saturday and enjoyed every fast-paced minute of it.

Andre Drummond, center for the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, and retired Detroit Red Wings great Darren McCarty of the NHL got their first up-close taste of the NTT IndyCar Series at Race 1 in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. Drummond served as grand marshal while McCarty experienced the thrill of riding in the Honda “Fastest Seat in Sports” as a passenger in the two-seat Indy car driven by Conor Daly prior to the start of the race.

Each sports celebrity was blown away with what they were able to take in, despite the rain that delayed the start of race activities. Drummond had the honor of issuing the command for the NTT IndyCar Series drivers to start their engines before the race in a duet of sorts. Joining the two-time NBA All-Star to give the command (shown above) was two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, who won Detroit’s first Indy car race 30 years ago on a downtown street circuit before the event moved to its current location on Belle Isle Park in 1992.

“I’m really excited to be here and to see all of this,” Drummond said. “Being here and seeing those cars makes me scared with how fast they go. Seeing them up close and what the drivers do is incredible. They go so fast!

“It’s admirable what they’re able to do with these cars at these speeds. I’ve never seen it live before so I’m really excited to see it live and up close.”

Drummond even had a favorite driver picked before the race, and it proved fortuitous. After meeting Josef Newgarden recently when the two competed in a game of “fowling” – a combination of football and bowling – Drummond said he planned to cheer for Newgarden. It was the right choice on Saturday since Newgarden won the race on the 2.35-mile street circuit.

“I’ve been able to meet Josef and create a relationship with him,” Drummond said. “I might need to go grab a shirt of his and wear it in the pits today.”

Best seat in the house when not racing. Great to meet @GrindTimeDMac25 ! Thanks for letting us lead the field to green @Honda ! #hondapartner pic.twitter.com/cEMKqlhxfk

McCarty, whose NHL career ran from 1993-2009 and predominantly with the Red Wings, was in awe of what he saw and what drivers experience after climbing out of the two-seater – especially in rainy conditions at the start when he circled the course.

“I think the whole concept is interesting to understand with running in the rain out here,” McCarty said. “To be able to do this in general was awesome, but also to do it on a wet track and see what that’s like was cool. It gives you the education and more people get educated on what really goes on with this sport. I love that about any type of motorsports.”

McCarty, a forward, was part of four Stanley Cup champion teams in Detroit. The 47-year-old from British Columbia appreciated the championship effort that NTT IndyCar Series drivers and teams put forth every time they take the track.

“The punishment and what the drivers go through is insane. Having to do different speeds, braking, hitting your marks in the pits, racing other cars with your body rattling around is crazy. I’m amazed that they can do this,” he said.

The second race of the Detroit doubleheader airs live at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Darren McCarty and Conor Daly in two-seater Detroit

From the fans