Ike on fast track to Bristol

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Last October, the good folks at Toyota Racing graciously issued Mike Iaconelli a custom-fitted fire suit for a 120-mph hot lap with NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr. around Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Later that autumn day, the two shared time catching bass on shaky head-rigged finesse worms at Lake Norman.

This week “Ike” is jumping into his Toyota Tundra and towing his boat from his New Jersey home to famed Bristol Motor Speedway. It’s doubtful he’ll be wearing the fire suit along the 516-mile drive, but Iaconelli is indeed blazing with excitement to return to NASCAR’s inner circles.

In the case of Bristol, it’s a small circle that provides the most exciting short track race of the year. Iaconelli will be at Bristol to sign autographs for race fans, as well as to get an inside look at Truex’s world on an actual race weekend. Ike’s Tundra and boat will also be on display for the 160,000 or so fans that fill one of the largest sports venues in the world.

“I gotta be honest, until recently, I wasn’t much of a NASCAR fan,” Iaconelli said. “But based on my experiences with Martin Truex Jr. last year in Charlotte, and what some of my buddies have told me about Bristol, I can’t wait to get there.

“I’m also excited just to go and observe how they have grown their sport so big in a fan friendly way. My goal at Bristol is to watch, learn, have a good time and bring some of that experience back to fishing. I also know that a ton of NASCAR fans love to fish, so I’m looking forward to talking fishing with the race fans, too.”

Martin Truex Jr., driver of the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, reciprocates excitement for Ike’s return to NASCAR.

“Mike is a pretty intense guy when he’s fishing and it will be pretty cool to bring him into our world at an actual race and show him just how intense NASCAR racing is, especially at Bristol,” said Truex, who like Iaconelli, is a New Jersey native.

New Jersey's Truex and Ike share some interests.

In addition to sharing the same home state, Truex shares Ike’s love of fishing.

“I caught a lot of smallmouth in Traverse City before the Michigan race last weekend. I do pretty good fishing on my own, but of course he’s a pro, and he’s real good, “Truex said of the 2006 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year.

Truex, who heads to Bristol sitting 21st in the Sprint Cup standings, might even get a fishing trip out of it.

“If anything, I’d like to ask Mike when he wants to go fishing again,” Truex said. “He’s a lot of fun to hang out with; he’s a good dude.  Plus, he’s a Phillies fan, and he’s from Jersey, too.”