Defending Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, WBC world heavyweight boxing title holder Deontay Wilder and Alabama head football coach Nick Saban have something in common.
They are each champions in their respective sport.
On Monday, the three gathered at the Alabama practice facility in Tuscaloosa to talk shop and promote the upcoming Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motosports Park on April 24-26.
Hunter-Reay is the two-time defending champion of the Birmingham-based IndyCar race and Wilder, a Tuscaloosa native, is the grand marshal of this year’s event.
They also exchanged helmets–an Indy helmet for Saban, and Alabama replica helmets for Hunter-Reay and Wilder.
Hunter-Reay said he is a big college football fan and has a special affinity for Saban, even though the driver is a Miami Hurricanes fan.
“I’m a Dolphins fan and we liked him when he was there,” he said. “We hated for him to leave.”
“I’m more of a pro football fan, but I love college football too,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s exciting.”
Rain prevented the coach and boxer from getting a ride in a 2-seater street-legal Indy car driven by Hunter-Reay. They did get to inspect the car, and Wilder posed for pictures in the driver’s seat.
They also spent some time in the Alabama weight room, where Hunter-Reay and Wilder got some instruction from Tide strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran.
Hunter-Reay said he extended an invitation for Saban to attend the Indy 500 whenever he’d like.
“I told him he’s always welcome to be a guest of ours at the race,” he said. “Hopefully he’ll take us up on that.”