NASCAR Talents Battle Olympic Silver Medalist April Ross on the Cincinnati Beach
United States Olympic Beach Volleyball silver medalist April Ross battled with and against NASCAR talents Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon and Brian Scott during a friendly match today to promote the Aug. 31-Sept. 2 Assoc. of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) Cincinnati Open along with Kentucky Speedway's Sept. 21-22 doubleheader event weekend that will spotlight the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) "Kentucky 201" and NASCAR Nationwide Series "Kentucky 300" races.
Scott and Ty Dillon worked with Ross while Austin Dillon teamed with AVP players Michelle Moriarty of Houston, Texas and Kaitlin Sather Nielsen of Sonoma, Calif. Teams battled to a 1-1 match tie and expressed interest in scheduling a future tiebreak.
Ross, who made her Olympic debut in London, England earlier this summer and teamed with Jen Kessy to capture women's beach volleyball silver, was impressed with drivers' athletic ability and competitive desire.
"I didn't know what to expect from the drivers, especially in beach volleyball which is such a skill-based sport, but they were definitely athletic and picked it up so fast. I feel like they can go out, play any sport and be good at it.
"We were only supposed to play one game, but it got really competitive. The brothers wanted to beat each other pretty bad. We ended up losing that game, then, Brian and Ty said 'we're playing another one'," Ross said. After introducing drivers to her sport, she's carefully considering an invitation try to develop her NASCAR skills.
"I talked to them a little about driving and they said they get up to 260 mph. I drive a little Smart Car and I can't go faster than 90 mph. I really do want to try their sport. They invited us to an event in Phoenix, so, maybe I'll give it a whirl, but it scares me," Ross said.
Austin Dillon enjoyed his time stirring up the sand today and may have discovered a new hobby.
"It's great just coming out here, learning new stuff and playing sports. We're all very competitive people, so it's cool to play against the AVP athletes and to see what's it's like to take a shot against an Olympic medalist. I'm really interested in volleyball now and want to play more," he said.
He hopes for a repeat Kentucky Speedway performance in September after capturing his first NNS victory in the June 29 "Feed The Children 300" in dominating fashion. Dillon led a series track-record 192 of 200 laps and also set the series track record for widest margin of victory by taking the checkered flag by 9.828 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Kurt Busch.
"We want to blow the field away every weekend. Hopefully, we'll have ourselves together again and we can go out there and repeat. Kentucky Speedway has so much character. The good thing is you can set your car up around that. Hopefully, by the end of the day, you have something for them," Austin Dillon said.
His brother, Ty, also channeled his inner beach volleyball player while learning from Ross today.
"I understand I'm not a beach volleyball player, but I had a blast out there today. It was a lot fun playing with somebody of April Ross' caliber. I had a lot of fun with my brother, Brian Scott and the AVP players. I want to play more volleyball," he said.
Also similar to Austin, Ty plans to duplicate his June Kentucky effort when he returns for his second career NCWTS start at the track on Sept. 21.
"We had a really fast truck (in June). We blew up a motor in practice, had to start last and ended up finishing third.
"We'll be looking for a better starting position in September. I think we definitely have the speed, especially after what we learned with Austin's Nationwide Series car. We look forward to getting to Kentucky after he dominated that Nationwide race and winning our first race here," Ty Dillon said.
Scott was the most experienced beach volleyball player among today's NASCAR contingent. He grew up playing against his cousin, Jess Gysin, the AVP player who enjoyed a distinguished career with the Univ. of Southern California Trojans.
"I've had 24 years of family grudge matches with Jess back home in Idaho. I had a little bit of experience going into this and still we broke even on the games, 1-1. Luckily, we had April Ross on our team. She was a great teammate and really helped me and Ty out. All in all, it was a lot of fun," Scott said.
He will make his fourth career NNS Kentucky start and eighth all-time appearance at the track in September.
"I've been coming to Kentucky Speedway for a while now in the ARCA Series, the Camping World Truck Series. Now we get the pleasure of coming here in the Nationwide Series. "It's always been a great track for me, I'm really fast. I'm just looking to put the whole race together and hopefully pull into Victory Lane," Scott said.
Tickets, daily infield Fan Zone passes and campsites for our Sept. 21-22 are available through the "Tickets" and "Camping" pages of this Web site as well as by phone at (859) 578-2300.-
Story by Mike Schmaltz