Patriots’ Gunner Olszewski Showcases Skills During NASCAR Rain Delay

Gunner Olszewski

Getty Patriots receiver Gunner Olszewski takes part in pre-race festivities at New Hampshire.

The NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 18 came to a halt due to rain, forcing the drivers from their cars. Some spent time conducting interviews, but two partnered with New England Patriots receiver Gunner Olszewski for some track football.

Shortly after NASCAR threw the red flag and brought the race to a halt, Bubba Wallace tweeted that he needed a football. Fortunately for the 23XI Racing driver, Olszewski had him covered. The All-Pro receiver/returner grabbed a football and headed out onto the track with Wallace and Corey LaJoie. The trio then spent time playing catch with fans before Olszewski showcased his skills.

The play started with Wallace as the center. He snapped the ball to LaJoie — a left-handed quarterback — who took a five-step drop and then launched the ball deep to Olszewski. The receiver caught the pass in stride while the crowd roared its approval at the best left-handed touchdown pass since Tim Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard touchdown pass to deliver an overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 wild card playoffs.

The Patriots Receiver Filled Multiple Roles at the Track

Olszewski showcased his skills as a receiver and provided entertainment for the fans, but he did not show up at the 1.058-mile oval to catch passes from NASCAR drivers. Instead, he had a very different role, one that set the stage for an action-packed race.

Track officials announced prior to the trip to New Hampshire that Olszewski would serve as the pace car driver. He would climb into the Toyota Camry TRD and lead the Cup Series drivers around the track before the green flag waved to officially start the race.

A NASCAR fan, Olszewski told reporters that he wanted to wear some merchandise to the track, but he had two issues. The first is that he is now too big to fit into his Dale Earnhardt Jr. gear. The second is that he couldn’t find the Kevin Harvick Busch Light jacket that he bought at a truck stop while in college.

The New Hampshire crowd did not mind that the Patriots player did not have any NASCAR merchandise on. They cheered for him during introductions and as he drove the pace car. They then celebrated as he caught a “touchdown” pass.

Playing Football at the Track Is Nothing New for NASCAR

While Olszewski traditionally spends his time catching passes on football fields, Wallace and LaJoie have a tradition of tossing the pigskin during rain delays. The two drivers have done so multiple times in past NASCAR seasons, including 2019.

One instance, in particular, also featured another driver. Wallace took time to throw the football to fans during the delayed Coke Zero Sugar 400 on July 7, 2019. He played catch for a while before Daniel Hemric came out onto the track surface to join him.

Another example took place during a 2019 race at Michigan Speedway. LaJoie and Wallace played catch on pit road, but they also spent time throwing the football over the catch fence and into the crowd. Though a poor throw by one fan led to the football getting stuck on the upper portion of the fence by the start-finish line.

With fans returning to the track after a COVID-altered 2020 season, the drivers can focus on old traditions once again. They may not desire to see rain delays each week, but they can embrace the opportunity to interact with fans in unique ways.

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