BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Joe Namath had never been to an IndyCar race before Sunday’s Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, but he made sure to check out the track from the air.
Namath, who lives in Florida, was flown over Barber Motorsports Park in a private plane on Saturday a day before serving as grand marshal, and praised the track with his characteristic enthusiasm.
“This is spectacular,” the former Alabama and New York Jets quarterback said. “I’ve never seen anything like it, really. I was lucky enough to come in (Saturday) and get an overview from the sky, and then being out here looking at it, seeing the elevation changes, the turns. I mean, this is spectacular, along with everything that goes with the park. It’s a thrill and it’s an eye-opener for me to see this.”
Namath posed for photos with A.J. Foyt and some of the IndyCar drivers, and chatted with team owner Roger Penske before preparing some kabobs with Josef Newgarden on the cooker bearing the former NFL star’s name.
“I have a great deal of respect for anyone that’s good at something,” Namath said. “I respect people, anyway. But whether you go see a Broadway play, whether you go to a sporting event, these people are the best. They put the hours, the days, the time into honing skills. And to see these people put their expertise to work, it’s jaw-dropping.
“I’m amazed at what these people do. It’s one thing to watch it on television, it’s another to be close up here and see it, feel it. There’s no place like actually being at the track or actually being at the stadium.”
Namath said he still faithfully watches Crimson Tide games on TV and attended the Colorado State game last season.
The Tide’s most famous quarterback also is pulling for AJ McCarron to land on a good team in the NFL draft May 8-10. Namath said he has “only good things to say” about McCarron’s character and effort.
McCarron led Alabama to two national championships and a 36-4 record as a starter. He’s widely projected as a second-round pick.
“Whoever gets him, they’re going to be happy,” Namath said. “I don’t know what’s going to develop. He has the ability physically and mentally, certainly, and the leadership quality, the intangibles, the work ethic. Lady Luck plays a role for all of us.
“The best quarterback I ever saw play that’s not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is Archie Manning, because he never had a decent team. It’s a team game. If AJ gets with some guys that could allow him to do his best, too – offensive line to start with. If AJ gets a team that doesn’t have the kind of blocking he needs, he’s going to struggle. I’m first hoping that he gets with a quality group of people and teachers and AJ will be fine.”