The University of South Florida took part in the Meineke Car Care Bowl's signature pregame event Wednesday, visiting Charlotte Motor Speedway for a chance to ride in a stock car at the Richard Petty Experience.
Bulls players and coaches zoomed around the 1.5-mile track for three laps each with a trained driver, reaching speeds up to 165 mph.
"It was amazing," USF sophomore OL Mark Popek said. "To think they still go faster than that."
USF coach Skip Holtz could barely contain himself once the cars started running. During a brief media session as the event began, Holtz continually paused and watched every time the group of five cars drove through his view of the track. He was even more enamored after his ride-along.
"Awesome, just awesome," Holtz said. "I've always been a fan of NASCAR, but to have the opportunity to experience it like that was unbelievable.
"I want to come back and drive it now."
Friday's matchup with Clemson will mark the final college game for 18 USF seniors, and senior CB Mistral Raymond said this week is becoming emotional as the fact begins to sink in that his career is coming to a close.
"Definitely. There was a point in time that, maybe if you would have asked me a week or two ago, I wouldn't have said so," he said. "You certainly want to enjoy the experience. I'm getting as little sleep as possible, it seems like. I'm trying to spend as much time as I can with these guys."
Clubbing way back
USF senior FB Richard Kelly is much more noticeable these days thanks to the club-like wrap engulfing his right hand.
Kelly had surgery Dec. 1 to repair a broken thumb suffered at Miami and missed the regular-season finale against Connecticut, but he will be able to play in his final college game thanks to the support of the wrap, which includes layers of soft padding around a hard cast.
"Blocking-wise, it's not limiting me at all. I'm a physical guy and I can still go out there and hit people," Kelly said. "Carrying the ball or when they're throwing it to me, obviously it's limiting me a lot. I've been trying to make some one-handed grabs, but it's been pretty hard to do that."
USF practiced at its third different location in as many days Wednesday, holding its workout at a local high school. The Bulls will have a walkthrough today at Bank of America Stadium. ... Several USF players took advantage of some remaining snow at the racetrack, including senior DT Terrell McClain and sophomore DT Cory Grissom, who snuck up from behind and surprised assistant coaches Kevin Patrick and Larry Scott by dumping giant snowballs on their heads. Several others staged a snowball fight around the team buses prior to departure.