Ole Miss coach gets firsthand taste of Talladega speed

Published May. 3, 2015 3:17 p.m. ET

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) Hugh Freeze knows a little something about speed and about NASCAR.

The Mississippi football coach uses NASCAR terms to describe the various tempos of his no-huddle offense. The fastest: Talladega.

Freeze drove the pace car for Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, where pal Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was among the drivers. He said he's been a NASCAR fan since the early 1990s, pulling for Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Now, he roots hardest for Stenhouse and Danica Patrick, Stenhouse's girlfriend.

Freeze has been recording all the Sprint Cup races for years and said he tries to watch them as soon as he gets home from work on Sunday nights.

''Just the teamwork that's involved to be at an elite level in any sport, and NASCAR is certainly no exception,'' Freeze said before the race. ''Maybe there's a lot of things that we can learn as a football team. I try to relay that to our kids a lot of the time on doing your role and doing it very well.

''You may have a one-star talent in your room or a two-star talent or a five-star talent. I kind of relate the drivers to the five-star guys. But you know what? The one-star guy, whoever that is, has got to do his job or the whole team suffers. And driving around out there today, I'm even more amazed at the talent that these athletes have. To run those bankings at 200 mph three- or four-wide is incredible.''

Stenhouse led the Rebels onto the field before last season's Egg Bowl against rival Mississippi State. No. 19 Ole Miss upset No. 4 Mississippi State 31-17.


''Hopefully he can bring us some good luck today as well,'' Stenhouse said.

Freeze said his players, especially the quarterbacks, often come to the sideline seeking more speed: ''Coach, let's go some `Dega.''

When Stenhouse visited practice, some of the players told him they wanted a turn behind the wheel. Freeze isn't sure that's a good idea.

''I'm not sure we could do that,'' he said. ''I've seen some of our guys drive. I see the tickets every week.''


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