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NASCAR ride-along big hit with Bulls

Posted Dec 29, 2010 by Adam Adkins

Updated Dec 29, 2010 at 09:36 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. 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 miles per hour.

“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 session with the media as the event began, Holtz continually paused and stood in awe 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.”

EMOTIONAL TIME: 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 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.”

BULLS BITS: 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. … Multiple USF players took advantage of some remaining snow at the race track, 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 a giant snowball on their heads. Several others staged a snowball fight around the team buses prior to departure.

Photos: At top, USF coach Skip Holtz is overjoyed after taking his three laps around the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Richard Petty Experience, the signature event for players and coaches during bowl-week activities at the Meineke Car Care Bowl. At bottom, USF receiver Lindsey Lamar is all smiles as he gets strapped in for his ride-along.

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