Jim Tressel is used to driving himself places, but yesterday morning he opted to let a chauffeur zip him from his office to the Ohio State golf course. He even gained a police motorcycle escort, not that regular traffic was held up for long.
The OSU coach was riding in the back seat of the Indy Racing League's two-seater demo car, courtesy of New Albany's Graham Rahal, 20, a second-year IndyCar driver and lifelong Buckeyes fan.
"You know, Graham called after the last couple of bowl games and said we needed more speed. So we said, 'OK, we'll get together and try to work on our speed,' " Tressel said, tongue in cheek. "It's just an honor to meet Graham, and it was a tremendous adventure to get in one of those cars. I wouldn't do it at 230, though, nor could I imagine doing it for 3 1/2 hours."
Tressel didn't go anywhere close to 230 yesterday as Steve Barry took him up Kenny Road. The 6-foot-2 Rahal couldn't do the driving. He's too tall to fit in the front seat of that car.
But in helping promote the August IRL race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Rahal showed up at the golf course to exchange gifts. Rahal got various autographed items. Tressel received a black racing helmet with OSU decals.
"I've been a huge Buckeye fan for a long, long time," Rahal said. "And to get to meet coach Tressel and have him take a ride in the two-seater, that's fantastic. Even though it's obviously not one of the cars we race, it still gives you an idea of what it would feel like."
Conversely, Rahal -- son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal -- received a guided tour of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, his first time inside the OSU football headquarters, though he seemed more impressed with meeting Tressel for the first time.
"It was incredible how nice, and laid back, and those types of things he is, being that there is a lot of pressure there, that's obvious," Rahal said. "He's a great guy.
"You know the importance of the football team here to this city and this state. To see a guy who has all that pressure on his shoulders handle it the way he does is impressive."
The feeling was mutual, Tressel said.
"I've always admired the Rahal family," Tressel said. "When I was an assistant coach here (in the mid-1980s), Bobby was beginning his charge. I didn't really know him, but I thought he was a tremendous role model for kids, the right kind of character and a great competitor."
Squeezing into the two-seater and then heading up Kenny Road inches above the asphalt also gave him an appreciation for the Rahals' claim to fame.
"People always talk about what's the toughest sport, and I was telling Graham my belief is it's the one where there might be bodily injury," Tressel said. "I think football is a little bit tough, but going 230, crashing into walls? No, thanks."
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