Carolina Panthers' linebacker Thomas Davis is no stranger to speed and power, but the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year presented by Nationwide award winner gained a new appreciation for it from the biggest name in motorsports, Dale Earnhardt Jr., during a series of hot laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday.

Davis, who will serve as the honorary pace car driver during Sunday's 56th running of the Coca-Cola 600, was at the legendary 1.5-mile superspeedway to learn the ropes of navigating the 24-degree banking before he leads the field to green during the ultimate test of man and machine, NASCAR's only 600-mile race. As part of the process, Davis took the Charlotte Motor Speedway official Toyota Camry pace car through the paces before riding shotgun in Earnhardt Jr.'s 600-horsepower No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet.

"It was a great experience. I'm truly excited about coming out here on Sunday and being part of this," Davis said. "It's a dream come true. You sit around and you think about doing stuff like this, but when you actually get to do it, it's amazing. It's a lot like being able to run out and hear our fans cheering - the same kind of adrenaline rush.

"I only got to about 110 (in the pace car). The curves kind of made me a little nervous, but other than that, I tried to open it up as much as I could."

To get his first-ever points-paying win at Charlotte Motor Speedway during Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, Earnhardt Jr. will have to drive his No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS nearly 200 mph and best a field of 42 other hungry competitors. A win at Charlotte - and especially the Coca-Cola 600 - is among the most coveted races remaining on the Hendrick Motorsports driver's wish list.

"The 600 at Charlotte is just one of the premier races on the schedule," Earnhardt Jr. said. "When people ask you about the biggest races of the season, the 600 is definitely on that list. It's the only 600-miler and I've never won a points race at Charlotte; it's been on our list for a very long time. This is our home track. I've been coming here since I was a little kid and just dreamed of being able to go into Victory Circle after that 600 and celebrate."

Great seats are still available for this weekend's Coca-Cola 600, with weekend packages starting at just $99. To purchase tickets, camping and race-day upgrades, fans should call the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or visit the Charlotte Motor Speedway website.

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