Carolina Panthers' Graham Gano, NASCAR's Austin Dillon 'Kick Off' the Thrilling Motorsports Month of May at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano has booted a football through uprights in stadiums across the country, but his Wednesday-afternoon kickoff to the Motorsports Month of May at Charlotte Motor Speedway saw Gano convert field goals from an entirely new location: pit road.
Gano and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Austin Dillon took part in a field-goal kicking exhibition, a chat with media and a full-throttle stock car ride around the iconic 1.5-mile superspeedway - a thrilling introduction to what is sure to be an unforgettable 10 Days of NASCAR Thunder at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"I couldn't believe it," Gano said of his ridealong experience. "I've never gone that fast. I can't even find the words. I was trying to get it all on camera, but I was like, 'I need to put my hand down and just enjoy this.'"
"It was a blast," Dillon said. "I love football and I'm a huge fan of Graham and the entire Panthers team. It was fun kicking field goals with him. His position is such a mental position, because you've got to go in front of so many fans who are looking at you to make that kick. He does it so often."
Gano converted 30 of 36 field goals last season for the NFC Champion Panthers, and led the NFL with a 65.7-yard kickoff average.
While the veteran kicker is no stranger to gridiron success, his first visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway offered a fresh glimpse into the nation's most thrilling spectator sport.
"This is massive," Gano said. "It's way bigger than any stadium I've been in by far."
The Panthers' new punters, Swayze Waters and Michael Palardy, also joined in the fun.
"When I signed, one of the first things my buddies said was that this is the home of Charlotte Motor Speedway and all the teams," Waters said. "I'm excited to see the All-Star Race and the 600. Being a fan and being able to be close by will be nice."
"I would absolutely love to come to a race," Palardy said. "I think coming here and seeing something like this makes me want to get into it."
Dillon, a Welcome, North Carolina, native, wants nothing more than to win at his home track. He claimed both NASCAR XFINITY Series races at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2015, but the 26-year-old Richard Childress Racing driver has set his sights on success in the May 21 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the 57th running of the iconic Coca-Cola 600 on May 29.
"To be able to win here twice last year was amazing," Dillon said. "Hopefully, we can come home with a Sprint Cup Series win this year."
"When you think about the legendary moments in NASCAR, a lot of them have been made here at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race and the Coca-Cola 600," Charlotte Motor Speedway President and General Manager Marcus Smith said. "We can't wait for Austin and the rest of the drivers to tear it up on the track."
Fans can purchase tickets, camping and race-day upgrades to the entire 10 Days of NASCAR Thunder at Charlotte Motor Speedway by calling 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or shopping online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.
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