The morning after riding his Yamaha M1 to a sixth-place finish at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, nine-time Grand Prix World Champion Valentino Rossi landed in Charlotte, N.C., to race around another track; only this time there were no right turns. (UPDATED with additional photos.)
Rossi met up with NASCAR racer and fellow Monster Energy-sponsored athlete Kyle Busch to ride Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch, winner of the last three Nationwide Series races, gave Rossi a walkaround of his car before taking the Yamaha factory rider around a few laps of the Charlotte Motor Speedway 1.5-mile oval.
After a brief visit to the pit area, it was Rossi’s turn to climb into the driver’s seat and took his turn around the oval’s 24-degree banked corners, reaching speeds of about 185 mph.
“It was so cool to understand the feeling!” Rossi tells MotoGP.com. “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 racetrack. 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.”
But how did Rossi do on his little test? Lap times were not released but Busch said Rossi’s times would put him in the top 15 in an actual Nationwide Series practice. Based on lap times from the first practice session at the 2012 History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, that would mean Rossi’s lap times would be under 30.454 seconds.
“I thought he did pretty good. He started out a little slow, which is fine, but every lap he picked it up a lot,” says Busch. “He got to where he was running some competitive lap speeds – times that would put him in the top-15 in Nationwide Series practice. That’s pretty good for a guy in his first start, who is just coming over and getting used to things and someone that is used to driving on two wheels.”