CHANDLER, Ariz. - OK, so Larry Nance hasn't been racing much in the last two years. But don't discount his abilities to compete in the Pro Stock category. The former three-time NBA All-Star player knows how to win and is anxious to get back on the...
CHANDLER, Ariz. - OK, so Larry Nance hasn't been racing much in the last two years. But don't discount his abilities to compete in the Pro Stock category. The former three-time NBA All-Star player knows how to win and is anxious to get back on the quarter-mile drag strip in his U.S. Marines Oldsmobile.
"I have been racing in my head, preparing mentally," Nance said. "The thing with athletes is that we have been programmed to compete all our lives. I've done it pretty well and I think I am one of the lucky ones to be able to retire from basketball and still compete. I was very fortunate to find drag racing. It is every bit as competitive as basketball and it gives me the same butterflies and the same feeling that makes me want to compete."
Nance will be among the favorites in Pro Stock when he lines up for qualifying at the 18th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals, Feb. 21-24, at Firebird International Raceway. The race is the second of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Nance last raced in a full slate of events in 1999, qualifying for two races. The 2002 season, however, already looks brighter in Nance's opinion.
"I think it is great that I have the Marines on board and a Richard Maskin motor," Nance said. "I have been trying to get his engines in my cars forever. I have great guys working with me, like my crew chief Taylor Lastor. This is the first time in my racing career that I have all the things I need to compete. That has been my goal since day one. That makes me even more excited about the possibilities of the 2002 season."
While Nance and the U.S. Marines have been working on the deal to sponsor the Pro Stock car for a few months, it was shortly before the season opener at Pomona Raceway that the plans, and the team, were finalized. With so little time to prepare, Nance said he is going to have to rely on his past experience to get the team in a position to win races.
"One thing I know well is teamwork," said Nance, who joins Tom Hammonds as fellow ex-NBA players in the Pro Stock ranks. "I know how to value people and their responsibilities and what they bring to the table. Taylor Lastor is a smart guy and I will be looking to learn from him. Hopefully I can perform for the rest of the team and show them what I can bring to the table as a driver."
During the 2001 season, there were 15 different winners in the Pro Stock category. The season champion, Warren Johnson (six victories), was one of only four drivers to make a repeat Winner's Circle appearance. The 2002 Pro Stock drivers look to be just as tough.
"The more competitive it is, the harder I want to drive," Nance said. "You look at the top 20-25 guys this year and any one of them could be in the top 10 at the end of the season. That fuels my fire and makes me want to see what I can do. I know that I will not be intimidated by the other drivers. I don't care who I am racing against, I just want to win. It's not going to be easy to win in this category, but I am up for the task and I am looking to be as consistent as possible."
SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is scheduled for 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23. Final professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Feb. 24.
TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 18th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals. Call the Firebird Raceway ticket office at (602) 268-0200, or Ticketmaster, for ticket information.
TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 9 p.m. (ET) on Feb 23. ESPN2 will televise three hours of eliminations at 7 p.m. (ET) on Feb. 24. NHRA 2Day, a weekly 30-minute magazine show, will air Feb. 24 on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. (ET).