Feb 23, 2014, 1:32 PM EST
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – If the Daytona 500 plays out as usual today, with at least one multi-car “big one” wreck, a lot of NASCAR fans may likely go hunting for Larry The Cable Guy – well, at least the product he sponsors (Prilosec OTC for heartburn) – if their favorite driver’s day unexpectedly comes to an end early.
Larry was hanging around with fans outside Turn 4 of Daytona International Speedway prior to Sunday’s race with his Monster Truck and talking NASCAR.
MotorSportsTalk caught up with Larry, who said he isn’t officially picking any driver to win the 500, but is leaning towards Ryan Newman to win his second 500.
“I root for Ryan,” said Larry, who starred in the NASCAR-themed Cars and the sequel Cars2. “I have a lot of guys come to my shows and we tweet each other, and I always hate picking a favorite because I don’t want to (tick) off anybody. But I root for Ryan and I always pull for him every year.”
Larry spent several years living in the Tampa area and really ratcheted up his interest with Daytona less than 100 miles away. He’d come to DIS as a fan long before he became a celebrity.
“I became a NASCAR fan when I was about 14, 15 years old. I went to a couple races when I was that age. … And when I moved to Florida, I really got into it because there was a track everywhere around here. I’ve been a fan many years.”
Has been Grand Marshal at a number of races including Sonoma and Charlotte. He also made a number of appearances at other tracks, including Talladega and Atlanta, and recently had a chance to drove the pace car at Daytona.
“Unbelievable. When I got in there, I told the guy, ‘I’d like to punch it one time around here.’ The guy said, ‘Well, Larry, you’ve got a pretty good groove, go ahead and punch it.’ So I’m hammering it, probably doing 90, that’s about it.
“It was in one of those little Chevy Volt’s or whatever it was. I was scared to death the trunk was going to catch on fire. It was fun. I had a blast.”
A passionate and very knowledgeable NASCAR fan, Larry said his all-time favorite driver was the late Dick Trickle. You’d be amazed at how much Larry knows about Trickle, who dominated short track racing in his native Wisconsin and the Midwest before moving to North Carolina to pursue a NASCAR career.
“He was my all-time favorite driver,” Larry said. “I really liked the guy.”
Follow me @JerryBonkowski
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