Rahal compares notes with Predators’ goalie Hockey fan Graham Rahal and IndyCar Series fan Dan Ellis drew parallels between the sports during the kickoff event at Bridgestone/Firestone’s Americas Support Center for its “Racing to Help” United Way campaign.
Ellis, who posted a 23-10 record with a 2.34 goals-against average and .924 save percentage last season with the Nashville Predators of the NHL, will be the grand marshal July 12 for the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.
Ellis and Rahal, the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver who roots for the hometown Columbus (Ohio) Bluejackets, shared a table during a Bridgestone/Firestone employee autograph session.
“When you look at the race car drivers, they have to have the mental strength to be able to handle the difficulties of the road, the other drivers and everything that comes at them,” said Ellis, who played three seasons at the University of Nebraska-Omaha (Central Collegiate Hockey Association). So they have to be able to react in the same ways we react to different situations. They put a lot of training and work into getting geared up for their season and they bring it all out on race day.”
Ellis already is training for the marathon NHL season, which begins in October. Rahal, driving the No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps car, is in the midst of a six-week stretch of races that will take him from Nashville to Ohio to Edmonton, Alberta.
“The speed of the game, reaction time and how physical it is are probably the biggest things,” Rahal said. “I’d say hockey is more difficult at times. You could draw parallels between several things between the two sports, especially a goalie when you talk about reaction time. I don’t think there’s any sport that really matches that with how quickly the pucks are coming at them.”
Ellis will participate in driver introductions and give the command to start engines. He also will present the race winner with the coveted Gibson Guitar trophy.
“I know these IndyCar Series cars are really, really fast machines and they put on a great show under the lights at Nashville Superspeedway,” Ellis said. "I'm excited to have the opportunity not only to serve as the grand marshal, but to also get behind the scenes at the track, meet some of these talented drivers and just take in all the action.”