There’s faint hope Earl (the Twirl) Cureton will be at the wheel of a Robby Gordon Stadium Super Truck at the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix event next summer.
The former Detroit Finney, University of Detroit Titan and ex-Pistons favorite failed his truck driver’s test in the parking lot of the Palace on Friday morning.
Cureton — all 6-feet-9 of him — tried valiantly and in good humor to lower himself into the cockpit of a 600-horsepower SST in hopes of taking a ride around the Palace with IndyCar Series driver and truck racer Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Cureton, who played 12 years in the NBA and for the Pistons in 1983-86, finally had to leverage himself out through the window of the mean machine and leave it to Luyendyk to give several local and much shorter Detroit media members a thrill on the makeshift Palace racetrack.
“I can’t get my legs down in the cockpit,” Cureton said. “No, can’t do it, sorry.”
Luyendyk, son of two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, jumped his SST over several tree berms and did donuts and burnouts. Workers at the Palace watched from the windows.
“The track at the Palace is slick,” Luyendyk said afterward. “There’s some snow and ice down. I did donuts around a light pole and hopefully everyone had a smile. I had fun — it was a blast.”
Luyendyk’s exhibition was part of Palace Sports & Entertainment and the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix’s announcement Friday of a new promotional partnership.
The groups will offer special ticket packages to Pistons games and the races on Belle Isle, May 30-June 1. They also will co-host a “Grand Prix Night” at the Palace on March 5, when the Pistons play the Chicago Bulls.
Luyendyk, who will drive a limited IndyCar schedule for Dale Coyne Racing in 2014, was to watch the start of Friday night’s Pistons-Brooklyn Nets contest from a suite and be introduced at courtside to fans later.
A part-time TV commentator and model, Luyendyk was featured in ABC’s “The Bachelorette” in 2012. But it was the fast lane of a different sort that brought him to Auburn Hills on Friday.
Luyendyk also was there to hype the addition of a Robby Gordon SST Series event at next year’s Belle Isle race weekend. The 2014 Grand Prix schedule will feature two IndyCar races, the Tudor United SportsCar event, the Pirelli World Challenge race and a pair of SST battles — one on Friday and the other on Saturday.
“These truck races are super exciting,” said Luyendyk, who ran seven Stadium Super Truck Series races in 2013. “We jump over steel ramps, flying 150 feet down the track and 20 feet into the air, at 120 miles per hour. We are actually flying as high as the fence line.”
The SST trucks will run the full 2.3-mile-long Belle Isle course and at least five steel jump ramps will be laid down on the race track, one on the main straight. The SST series is the brainchild of former CART and NASCAR driver Robby Gordon, one of the best off-road truck and stadium racers in the world.
“The first time I jumped one of these trucks at Robby’s private test track in Charlotte (N.C.), I crashed, the truck caught fire and I busted a rib,” said Luyendyk, 32. “Starting one of these trucks up is like going into Turn 1 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 225 miles per hour. The fans are going to be in for a big surprise at Belle Isle.”
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