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Riding Shotgun with tennis star John Isner

John Isner and Matt Kenseth play ping pong

John Isner and Matt Kenseth play ping pong at Daytona International Speedway.

Yes. This is still a motorsports blog. John Isner just happens to be that rarest of individuals -- a pro tennis player who is also a NASCAR fan. He grew up in North Carolina and went to the University of Georgia and was thus immersed in NASCAR nation.

On June 24, Isner defeated Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon to complete the longest tennis match in history. The scores were 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68 and the match lasted eleven hours and five minutes and was spread over three days.

On the heels of winning the marathon match, Isner visited Jeremiah Weed’s Backyard at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday for another epic battle in the ultimate backyard game -- ping pong -- against Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Jeremiah Weed Ford Fusion.

Isner boldy took the challenge knowing the success that Kenseth has had at Daytona. And, well, he prevailed, winning 7-3 over the Jeremiah Weed driver in Jeremiah Weed's backyard. 


Trading Paint: Did you get a scouting report on Kenseth?

John Isner: No. But I know he's had success here at Daytona. He won the Daytona 500 last year. So this is his backyard. But ping ping is right up my alley.

TP: You have had  a little time to reflect on your historic match. How does it feel?

JI: It was really fun to be part of it and to be part of history. I never could have imagined a score like that.

TP: Talk about playing at Wimbledon and the atmosphere.

JI: Playing at Wimbledon is very special. If you are a golfer, it's the equivalent of playing Augusta. The spectators are into it, they are into the history of it. Every day, every single court is packed. In tennis, it's a very special time of  year.

TP:  You will be coming up to New York soon for the U.S. Open. You beat Andy Roddick at last year's U.S. Open, can you talking about playing here.

JI: It's the tournament that every American player gears up for. The atmosphere at the Open is second to none. The night matches are special. That's what separates the Open from other tournaments, the night matches. You get to play in front of 10,000 to 15,000 people. There is really a buzz in the crowd.

TP: Speaking of New York, you also got to throw out the first pitch at a Yankee game, what was that like?

JI: That was awesome. I was really nervous because I didn't want to get out there and bounce it. But I was pretty happy with my pitch, it may have been a little high. I met Joe Girardi and all the players. It was really cool because it was my first time at the new Yankee Stadium.

TP: Had you ever been to the old Yankee Stadium?

JI: Yes, three or four times as a kid. My dad is from Tarrytown, New York. So we made a few trips up to see some Yankee games.  I was at the last ever game between the Yankees and Red Sox at the old Stadium, we were in town because I was playing at the U.S. Open.

TP: So who are your favorite drivers?

JI: Actually, Matt Kenseth is one of my favorites. And I grew up rooting for Kyle Petty because he was from Greensboro, where I am from. But he doesn't race anymore, he calls races for TNT.

TP: I am guessing that there are not many NASCAR fans on the men's tour.

JI: I would say, outside of myself, there are zero. It's two totally different fan bases. The sports are polar opposites. Many players aren't Americans, so they don't follow NASCAR. But I am trying to spread the word amongst the guys. 

New York Sports