Greg Schiano called them “two great Florida traditions:” the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Daytona International Speedway. On Tuesday, those two state institutions overlapped in a way that was a blast for some of the people currently carrying on those traditions.
With the 55th annual Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race coming up on July 6, the numerical symmetry was too good to pass up. On Tuesday, Kasey Kahne, driver fo the No. 5 Farmers Insurance car, visited One Buccaneer Place where, among other things, he took some time after the Bucs’ mini-camp practice to trade passes with his #5 counterpart, QB Josh Freeman.
The two No. 5s also traded jerseys and chatted about about the rigors of their respective professions. The Sprint Cup star then attended Head Coach Greg Schiano’s post-practice press conference, which concluded with Kahne and Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III presenting Schiano with a custom driving helmet emblazoned with Bucs logos. As Chitwood, a Tampa native, explained to the Buccaneer coach, the impressive helmet also bore the signatures of every current Sprint Cup driver.
A self-professed big NFL fan who praised the Buccaneers while admitting that his own favorite team was the Seahawks, Kahne will be back in Florida in just a few weeks to compete in the Coke Zero 400 at the Daytona International Speedway. Kahne currently ranks eighth in the Sprint Cup Standings with a win in the Food City 500 and three other second-place finishes. He’s used to hard and fast racing surface, but he clearly enjoyed his team out on the Bucs’ well-manicured practice fields.
“This is a much different [surface],” said Kahne. “There’s a lot of grass out here; this is a neat place. I’m glad to be able to come and watch these guys, hang out a little bit and talk to some of the Tampa players.”
As hot and humid as Tuesday’s practice was, Kahne said it didn’t rival the temperatures that Sprint Cup drivers experience inside their cars during a summer race. He was quite impressed, however, with the athleticism and level of training that were on display at One Buc Place.
“In football, they train and it’s part of their deal,” he said. “Everybody trains as hard as they can, probably not all season but I imagine a lot of the season. They’re always trying to get stronger, faster and quicker. For us, it’s kind of more up to the driver and how he wants to go about it. I’ve always been into training and trying to be in as good of shape as possible. Some of the other guys do also, then other ones don’t. In racing it’s more up to you, but in football you have to do it and it’s part of being the best you can be.”