Pat McAfee injected comic relief and cash Wednesday into buddy Connor Daly’s ride for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
The Indianapolis Colts punter, known for his entertaining off-field adventures, visited Indianapolis Motor Speedway to join Daly and team owner Dale Coyne in announcing a primary sponsorship of the American-themed No. 18 car, which will promote McAfee’s new company ShirtsForAmerica.com.
McAfee, an eight-year NFL veteran whose penchant for laughs have included a stand-up comedy tour, didn’t disappoint in spreading his enthusiasm for backing the Dale Coyne Racing car for the May 29th Verizon IndyCar Series race more commonly known as “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.”
“Today is a gigantic day in history. Jot this one down in the books,” McAfee said. “This morning when I woke up, I had a nice large piece of apple pie. That’s what Dale Coyne and I do, right Dale? Conor couldn’t do it because he’s got practice. I chugged a nice, tall Budweiser. I took a shower and brushed my teeth with freedom.”
Daly and Coyne laughed as McAfee kept rolling.
“Dale seems really elated,” McAfee said. “I just gave him a check.”
McAfee’s involvement centers around a ShirtsForAmerica.com company he launched three days ago. In addition to helping Daly, a 24-year-old local fan favorite from nearby Noblesville, Ind., who was without a primary sponsor, the venture will benefit Wish For Our Heroes as well as The Pat McAfee Foundation with proceeds from the $18 T-shirts sold. Wish For Our Heroes was founded by American veterans to help struggling veterans with every day situations. McAfee’s Foundation has donated more than $150,000 in scholarships in the past three years to children of military families.
He said the T-shirts, although quite comical and just created “in the last couple hours, they are shirts that will quench the thirst of patriotism that people have deep in the pit of their stomachs.”
McAfee and Daly recently became friends — the punter was seen giving the driver a pep talk before Saturday’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis at IMS. Daly finished sixth in the road-course race, tying his best placement in 11 career series starts.
The two laughed about facing off in the Mario-Kart video game. Both agreed that McAfee won the series competition.
As for race day, McAfee assured he’ll enjoy the race from a suite and not as a crew member in the pits.
“On a serious note, Conor and I have been friends for a while,” said McAfee, who admitted he lost a real go-kart race to his more experienced buddy.
“We’re going to celebrate in Victory Lane by chugging 10 bottles of milk and we’re going to raise money for military foundations while doing so. I’m so excited for today to happen and I can’t wait for the race to start.”
He then asked Coyne if he had anything to say.
“No,” a smiling Coyne said, “I think you covered it. That’s his job. That’s why he wears No. 1.”
Daly in his first full season in the series and is looking to make this third Indy 500 start. He finished 22nd in 2013 and 33rd last year.
“This is obviously really cool for us,” he said. “Our program, we’re obviously in for the season, but we had a gap here at the ‘500’ that we had to fill. It’s been really difficult to put the whole program together, but Pat came on board and it’s actually a really cool idea and it’s really a cool thing he’s created here. To raise money for veterans and military families is something that our whole Indianapolis 500 race weekend is about as well.
“I’m a proud American. Pat is a tremendous American. We’re going to have a great time representing America for this whole month. I can’t thank him enough for coming on board.”
The No. 18 car has shed its white, green and black livery for a red, white and blue color scheme. McAfee points out that just five Americans have won the Indy 500 in the last two decades and it would be great to “get number six, especially a kid from Indiana.”
Daly said, “That touched my soul.”
“This is a majestic American vehicle that you’re going to be puling for from start to finish all 500 miles,” McAfee said. “We just want something that people can be proud of.”
An excited McAfee vouched for Daly’s talent as an up-and-coming racer, and then some.
“To be honest,” McAfee boasted, “Babe Ruth called his shot. ‘Broadway’ Joe called his shot. And this is me putting my money on the guy I’m guaranteeing a win for. That might be a lot of pressure for Conor, but I don’t really give a damn because I don’t have to drive a car.”
McAfee drove the pace car for last year’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Although a Pennsylvania native, he’s quickly become a passionate racing fan.
“Two years ago, I sat in turn one and I actually got to see the action and found out why people love this sport,” he said. “Although I beat him in Mario-Kart, he’s going to win the Indy 500 and you can go ahead and quote it.”
Daly countered, “Thanks, pal, and then we’ll have a rematch afterwards.”
“You don’t want that,” McAfee said. “But I tell ya what, you win and I get a chance to be in Victory Lane ever, you can do whatever the hell you want to me, Conor.”
Daly couldn’t stop laughing at his new sponsor.
“Stop it, keep it together,” McAfee told him under his breath.
“This is the greatest thing ever,” Daly said.
McAfee closed the news conference by saying, “We’ll see you in Victory Lane.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.