Pitino to be "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" Honorary Starter at Kentucky Speedway
Univ. of Louisville Men's Basketball Head Coach Rick Pitino will unleash the ultimate fast break at Kentucky Speedway June 14 when he sends Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and their fellow NASCAR Nationwide Series competitors racing by waving the "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" green flag. "We'll be honored to welcome coaching legend and Meijer spokesperson Rick Pitino to Kentucky Speedway for our Meijer 300 event. His success both on and off the court has been earned and well documented. Race fans around the tri-state and across the country will look forward to giving him the enthusiastic reception he deserves when he waves the green flag for our eighth NASCAR Nationwide Series race," Kentucky Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Mark F. Cassis said.
The 55-year-old Pitino is known as one of basketball's top strategists. He completed his seventh season at the Univ. of Louisville and 21st as a collegiate head coach in March with a 521-191 overall record that ranks as one of the NCAA's all-time best. Pitino's Cardinals finished the 2007-08 campaign 27-9 overall and No. 6 in the final ESPN/USA Today Poll after falling to national semifinalist North Carolina.
Pitino has guided his Cardinals to postseason play in each of his seasons while amassing a 169-67 record at the university. His 2004-05 team reached the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Final Four before closing out its season 33-5 with the No. 3 ranking in the final ESPN/USA Today poll.
He is the only collegiate head coach to guide teams from three different schools to the prestigious Final Four and one of 10 coaches to advance teams the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Semifinals five times. He first appeared in the elite group with his 1986-87 Providence College Friars, who earned a 25-9 mark. During his tenure at the Univ. of Kentucky from 1989 to 1997, his last six teams participated in the NCAA Tournament and all eight qualified for postseason play. He first made the national tournament semifinals with the Wildcats during the 1992-93 season and his 1995-96 squad captured the national title with a sterling 34-2 record. His Cats returned to the 64-team tournament title game the next year and completed the season with a 35-5 record after falling in overtime of championship game.
Pitino began coaching as graduate assistant at the Univ. of Hawai'i in 1974, joined the Syracuse Univ., staff as an assistant for the 1978-79 season and advanced to become a collegiate head coach for the first time at Boston Univ., from 1978 to 1983. He also has applied his skills with the NBA's New York Knicks, first as an assistant coach from 1983-85 and again as the head coach from 1987-89. Pitino additionally served as the Boston Celtics president and head coach from 1997-2001. He compiled a 102-146 record with the franchise before resigning to join the Cardinals for the 2001-02 season. Throughout, he built and sustained a reputation for creating a family atmosphere, inspiring players to believe in themselves and driving his teams to overachieve. His personal drive and charismatic personality also have combined to bring the New York City native success in broadcasting, publishing, motivational speaking and thoroughbred racing. He is the author of the best selling works "Success is a Choice" and "Lead to Succeed."
The third of six 2008 Kentucky Speedway event weekends begins Friday, June 13 with NASCAR Nationwide Series practice session on "Nationwide Series Day." Gates will open at 3:00 p.m., and practice will end at 8:00 p.m. Fans will receive free infield access. All tickets are $20.
The weekend continues June 14 when gates open at 2:00 p.m. NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying begins at 5:00 p.m., rock group Smashmouth will be in concert at 6:30 p.m., on the Turn 1 Concourse and the 43-car field that will include NASCAR all-stars Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards will take the green flag for the "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" at 8:30 p.m.
Tickets for both days can be reserved can be reserved online through the Tickets pages of this Web site, by phone at 888-652-RACE (7223), through Meijer stores and Tickets.com outlets and by visiting the Kentucky Speedway ticket offices at 400 Buttermilk Pike, Suite 100, in Ft. Mitchell, Ky., next to the Montgomery Inn Restaurant or the Sparta, Ky., Fan Center located off of Interstate 71 Exit 57 and Ky. Hwy. 35 N.
Story by Mike Schmaltz
~ Kentucky Speedway ~