Monday, February 20, 2012

On the Road to WrestleMania 28 Miami with John Cena at Daytona 500

NASCAR driver Carl Edwards gave one sound piece of advice to his friend, WWE superstar John Cena.

“I told him, ‘Do not drop the flag on the field of cars as they’re going under you.’ Other than that he can not screw up,” said Edwards.

Cena will wave the green flag as Honorary Starter of the 54th Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, Feb. 26 at the historic Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.

“I’m telling you. I’m so excited,” Cena said. “I’ve been using a weighted flag. My training has been going great. I’m ready for Daytona.”

Cena was invited to participate by Edwards on a recent WWE Monday Night Raw (9 p.m. EST USA Network).

“The biggest thing is we don’t want him to get too excited up there, or he’ll break something,” said Edwards, one of NASCAR’s top drivers. “He’s kind of like a bull in a China cabinet when he’s around race cars.”

Cena met Edwards in 2007 during the “Fast Cars & Superstars: Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race,” an ABC reality television series featuring 12 celebrities in a stock car auto racing competition.

“It was from the Celebrity Driving Challenge with Gillette that we became friends,” Cena said. “I have to thank the folks at Gillette for introducing us. It was totally by chance. I knew very little about NASCAR. I grew up with a little bit of the history of NASCAR just because I’ve been a car enthusiast.”

Cena boasts an extensive collection of classic and muscle cars.

“When I met Carl and actually got to drive some of the cars and really get into what it takes to be behind the wheel, I got a newfound admiration for the sport,” Cena said. “Not only that but for a class act guy like Carl, he’s a great guy, and we shared a lot of things in common, so we hit it off immediately.”

In the Celebrity Driving Challenge, Cena finished third, behind rodeo champ Ty Murray and NFL great John Elway.

“I think it came down to bodyweight. They had our cars governed at 155 to 167. That was the top speed anybody could go,” Cena said. “If you look at Ty, he’s certainly a tough SOB, but he weighed less than me. So when it came down to it, I was carrying more weight in the car, and I think that gave him the edge.

“[Third] was really good for me. I was definitely surprised at how I did. That’s a tribute to Carl. He was a great coach. As exciting as it was, he just told me to relax and find the line and don’t be afraid to run it. The car was amazing. It’s not like going into your local Ford dealer and test driving one. That Ford was built to go around that track at up to 200 miles an hour. So at 165, we were pretty much fine.”

There pose some differences among friends.

“He’s into fast,” Cena said. “I’m more into looking at the classic cars and not driving them, and he’s the other way around. If he sees something with a motor, he wants to get in it and run it.”

Would Cena sponsor a NASCAR?

“I see my face getting wrecked enough in the ring,” he said. “I don’t know if I can see my face getting wrecked on the wall, if something bad were to happen.”

Following the Daytona 500, Cena’s next big event is WWE WrestleMania 28 on April 1 where he will battle The Great One, The Most Electrifying Man in Sports & Entertainment, Dwayne The Rock Johnson at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens.

Does Cena own better, faster cars than The Rock?

“Yes,” Cena said. “I’m sure Rocky can buy whatever he wants, but as an enthusiast I have a few 200 mile per hour cars locked up in safe keeping.”

NASCAR’s version of Cena vs. Rock occurred last season when Edwards and Tony Stewart battled for the series championship. That enabled Cena a turn at offering some advice.

“I actually helped Carl out because I know toward the end of the [NASCAR] season Ole Smoke [Stewart] was talking a little bit about Carl, and Carl was trying to be a gentleman and really not respond,” Cena said.

Cena and Edwards vs. Rock and Stewart?

“I know Carl was doing what was politically correct, but if me and Carl team up and Smoke and Rock start talking some trash, I’ll definitely pull some debts out to all that.”

Stewart edged Edwards for the top spot after the final race, ironically in South Florida t Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“It was actually fun to watch,” Cena said. “It was like looking at myself in the mirror. Carl’s always a high road guy, and Smoke’s just trying to stir everybody up like he always does. I was impressed with the way Carl handled the final media week before the final race. It was kind of like the Tony Stewart of old. That’s really why I came to like Tony as well. He’d run his mouth, but he’d back it up, and there’s something to be said for that.

“Believe it or not, it’s just like my opponent on April 1 [at WrestleMania 28 in Miami Gardens]. I don’t see eye to eye with Dwayne Johnson, but he can run his mouth, and he can also back it up.”

Cena can back up his auto talk.

“I’m a big auto enthusiast,” he said. “I have a Toyota Superbird and a Dodge Daytona. So I know what that speedway is about. I know the history of it. I know the manufacturers need to build specific cars in order to perform on specific tracks. Daytona being one of them. Talladega being another.”

The Daytona 500 will be the first race he will start.

“I am so honored to be able to start this great race. It really is one,” Cena said. “To me, not only being a car enthusiast but to now really being into NASCAR as well, it’s something I really can’t believe is happening, and I won’t get the full effect until I’m up there for the second lap and they come by at about 190 miles an hour.”

Edwards invited Cena to races, WWE schedule permitting.

“I’ve been to a few. I’ve been to Charlotte a few times, and I went to Atlanta when Carl won. That was really, really cool. I actually got to see him win a race,” Cena said. “I’ve only been to a minimal amount of races. This time in Daytona I have the whole weekend off. So I’m not just there to start the race. I’ll get to the pre-race and cause some trouble, of course, and I’ll see the entire race. So I’m excited about it.”

People from different worlds make interesting friends.

“It was weird. I didn’t have much to do with NASCAR. He didn’t have much to do with WWE, but we hit it off,” Cena said. “I started watching racing. He started watching WWE. I guess the rest is history. We’ve had him on [WWE TV] three times. He was fantastic all three times. He did a backflip off the top turnbuckle and landed it with gymnast like precision. He’s more agile than I am.”

WWE’s interest in NASCAR is evident.

“I know a few [WWE] guys are into it,” Cena said. “I can’t necessarily say some money has exchanged hands [among WWE personnel] because that would be wrong, but some points go back and forth every weekend when the [NASCAR] guys race because we have a few eyes that watch very closely on the weekend.

“I’d say about 60 percent of our crew — from superstars to techs to everybody — are into NASCAR. When I tell you as a group we all watch on weekends, we all watch on weekends.”

They’ll be watching NASCAR on Feb. 26, some from the Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon. Wonder if any points will be won in that WWE locker-room if Cena drops the flag?


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