Charlotte: Olympians honorary Petty crew members

OLYMPIC ATHLETES AND NASCAR STARS 'CONNECT WITH THE WORLD OVER A COKE' AT COCA-COLA 600 Olympians Yao Ming and Steven Lopez Experience NASCAR And Share their Olympic World with Coca-Cola Racing Family Drivers Athletes Join to Celebrate New ...


Olympians Yao Ming and Steven Lopez Experience NASCAR And Share their Olympic World with Coca-Cola Racing Family Drivers

Athletes Join to Celebrate New Collectible Olympic-Themed Cans Featuring Coca-Cola Logo in Different Languages

CONCORD, N.C., May 25, 2008 -- Before the green flag dropped to start the 49th Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, one pit crew performance already stood head and shoulders above the rest -- literally. Seven-foot, six-inch international basketball superstar Yao Ming and two-time U.S. Olympic taekwondo Gold Medalist Steven Lopez experienced the world of NASCAR today and invited NASCAR drivers and fans to "Connect with the World Over a Coke."

To mark the launch of the new Coca-Cola Olympic program, Yao and Lopez served as honorary pit crew members for Kyle Petty's No. 45 Coca-Cola team. In return, the two Olympians gave members of the Coca-Cola Racing Family a glimpse into their world -- with Yao challenging drivers such as Jeff Burton and Michael Waltrip at basketball and Lopez demonstrating a few taekwondo moves.

The Coca-Cola summer program celebrating the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games features a series of limited edition, Olympic-themed collectible cans bearing the iconic Coca-Cola logo in different languages. The five different cans highlight the languages of Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, the U.S. and China, giving Americans a "taste" of how Coca-Cola is recognized around the world. With new designs appearing every few weeks, the cans mark the first appearance of the Coca-Cola script in different languages in the U.S.

Lopez is one member of a special Coca-Cola "Six Pack" of U.S. athletes that is prominently featured on packaging and in-store materials throughout the summer.

Petty, whose No. 45 Coca-Cola car features a special paint scheme showcasing all five can designs, hosted Yao and Lopez as they participated in simulated pit stops prior to the race. The Olympians donned crew uniforms and learned what it takes to get some of the world's fastest cars back on the track, trying everything from changing tires to refueling.

"Yao and Steven may not be the quickest tire changers in the garage, but they were great sports and everyone had a lot of fun," said Petty. "Actually, with Yao's reach, he might be able to perform some of the crew duties without ever going over the wall."

Later, the six-time NBA All-Star and member of the Chinese Olympic basketball team took to more familiar turf, challenging drivers from the Coca-Cola Racing Family to a fun, yet lopsided, game of "Around the World" on a hoop set up in Victory Lane.

Recounting his attempt to shoot baskets against Yao, Burton said, "While I probably didn't give Yao much of a challenge at the hoop, I'd like to see how he'd fare swapping paint with me at 200 mph on the track. Unfortunately, I don't think he'll fit into a stock car!"

"The Coca-Cola 600 is my first NASCAR race and it's been awesome to meet the drivers, change a few tires and feel the passion of the fans," said Yao. "It was also great to share the new Coca-Cola Olympic cans with NASCAR fans and drivers. By bringing together NASCAR and the Olympics I know we've definitely 'Connected with the World Over a Coke' today."

Meanwhile, Lopez -- who will join his brother Mark and sister Diana as the first trio of siblings in more than 100 years to compete for the U.S. in the same Olympic Games -- taught the Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers a few taekwondo techniques.

"These Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers are tough and competitive," Lopez said. "I could see them using some of the taekwondo moves I taught them to help psyche out the competition."

The first of five Coca-Cola Olympic can designs, which showcases the Coca-Cola logo in Russian, is now available on shelves across the country. Lopez is featured on FridgePack packaging for the cans.

About Coca-Cola and NASCAR

Coca-Cola is the official soft drink of NASCAR and has been involved with stock car racing for more than 40 years. A signature part of Coca-Cola's innovative NASCAR program is the Coca-Cola Racing Family -- a group of top drivers that includes Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Petty, David Ragan, Elliott Sadler, Tony Stewart and Michael Waltrip. Now in its 24th year, the Coca-Cola 600, held at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., is the longest continuous sponsorship of any NASCAR race.

-credit: cocacola

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Kyle Petty , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Jamie McMurray , Clint Bowyer , Elliott Sadler , David Ragan , Denny Hamlin , Mark Martin