(The Kentucky Speedway sent out the following release)
SPARTA, Ky. – Cincinnati Bengals captain, Travel Channel television star and entrepreneur Dhani Jones will visit Kentucky Speedway June 12 to deliver the command for 43 NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers to start their engines as grand marshal of the "Meijer 300 presented by Ritz."
"Starting the drivers' engines and feeling the passion and power of those that love speed, love going the distance and the thrill of competition is an honor," Jones said.
The well-spoken Potomac, Md., native stars in the Travel Channel's original series, "Dhani Tackles the Globe," through which he discovers sports have the universal ability to open a window into a culture, define a destination and unlock common passion. Jones tries his hand at a new sport in each episode such as Beach Volleyball in Brazil, Rugby in England, Muay Thai in Thailand, Hurling in Ireland, Dragon Boat Racing in Singapore, Lutte Wrestling in Senegal, Cricket in Jamaica and Lucha Libre Wrestling in Mexico.
Based on his global experiences, the festive "Meijer 300 presented by Ritz" atmosphere won't be entirely foreign to the 6-1, 240-pound linebacker.
"The atmosphere is paramount to none. It's being out there and understanding what those drivers go through. It's also about understanding the fan experience, the culture of the speedway and the culture of racing. A lot of people don't realize it's one the most watched sports in America. People are thrilled and truly enthusiastic about being there," he said.
The 32 year old who has turned laps in his personal car at Pocono Raceway and the Lime Rock Park road course in Connecticut in addition to piloting a Richard Petty Driving Experience stock car, subtly lobbied for a spot in the 43-car "Meijer 300 presented by Ritz" field.
"To be able to get on the track with other professionals, that would be something. So, if (Kentucky speedway) could do that for me one day, it would be phenomenal. To be able to go out there, feel the power of the car and the G-Forces going through the corners is an experience. I haven't done any rubbin' though, and I know rubbin' is racin'. Someday, I will." he said.
Jones completed his third Bengals season in 2009 with a team-leading 142 tackles while helping Cincinnati to a 10-6 record and the team's first National Football League playoff appearance since 2005. He earned All Big Ten Conference honors in each of his University of Michigan seasons from 1997 to 1999. The sixth-round NFL draft selection played with the New York Giants from 2000 to 2003. In 2004, Jones joined the Philadelphia Eagles and started Super Bowl XXIX versus the New England Patriots. He played in Philadelphia through 2006 and briefly joined the New Orleans Saints before playing his first game in Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium Sept. 23, 2007.
The natural entertainer also is actively involved in former United States Vice President Al Gore's climate change initiatives and demonstrates his commitment to the cause by riding a bicycle to practices and games. Jones also works toward ending hunger by serving on Feeding America's entertainment council.
He demonstrates his entrepreneurial spirit through his Five Star Ties bowtie line sold worldwide through www.fivestarties.com and specialty stores.
Race tickets, Big Deals specials and camping for the June 11-12 "Meijer 300 presented by Ritz" weekend can be reserved online at http://www.kentuckyspeedway.com, by phone at 888-652-7223 (RACE) or by visiting the Kentucky Speedway ticket offices in either Ft. Mitchell, Ky., at 400 Buttermilk Pike, Suite 100 near the Montgomery Inn restaurant or the track Fan Center located off of Interstate 71 Exit 57 and Ky. Hwy. 35 N in Sparta, Ky. Tickets additionally are available through Meijer stores and tickets.com outlets.
The first of two 2010 Kentucky Speedway race weekends will open with Nationwide Series practice sessions on "Click it or Ticket. Buckle-Up Kentucky Practice Night" June 11. Speedway gates will open at 4:00 p.m., and practice sessions will be held from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The night will conclude with grassroots racing when U.S. Legends International Series competition takes to the paved Kentucky Speedway quarter-mile oval for feature races beginning at 8:30 p.m. Speedway gates will close at 11:00 p.m.
Two-time "Meijer 300 presented by Ritz" winner and Joe Gibbs Racing young gun Joey Logano will defend his title against a stout field on NASCAR stars that will include Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski on Saturday, June 12. Speedway gates will open at 2:00 p.m., "Meijer 300 presented by Ritz" qualifying will begin at 4:00 p.m., classic country music group Sawyer Brown will be in concert at 6:00 p.m., on the Turn 1 Concourse concert stage and the green flag will wave for the "Meijer 300 presented by Ritz" just after 8:00 p.m.