Belle Isle notebook: Red Wings star 'drops puck' to start first Dual race

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DETROIT – Dylan Larkin, rookie phenom for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, has spent much of his life speeding around the ice on hockey rinks. The 19-year-old Michigan native spent the past few days getting acclimated with the fast life of Verizon IndyCar Series racing.

Larkin was grand marshal for today’s Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, where he issued the command for drivers to start their engines before the first race of the weekend doubleheader on the Raceway at Belle Isle Park. He also took a ride around the 2.35-mile temporary street course Thursday in the passenger seat of the INDYCAR Experience two-seater with 2003 Indianapolis 500 champion Gil de Ferran at the wheel.

“It’s been a real treat,” Larkin said this morning. “I’m a new fan of the sport."

Larkin, the Michigan native and 15th overall pick by the Red Wings in the 2014 NHL entry draft, scored a team-leading 23 goals in his debut season in 2015-16, plus one in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs for Detroit.

The Red Wings center made his first visit to a racetrack this week. While his profession takes place on a sheet of ice, Larkin saw several similarities between athletes of professional hockey and the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“Attention to detail. I think it’s a bit more extreme in racing,” Larkin said. “Obviously your life is on the line. The way you prepare like any sport is similar between the two. It’s a great sport, an extreme sport. The drivers have got to love what they do like we do in our sport.”

Watch Larkin's two-seater ride here:

Indy 500 winner Rossi writes school excuse for young karter to meet him

Alexander Rossi’s cross-country media tour this week following his Indianapolis 500 victory included a stop in Dallas for lunch with Texas Motor Speedway season-ticketholders. The Verizon IndyCar Series heads to TMS for the Firestone 600 on June 10-11.

While Rossi’s appearance was a highlight, the new American hero may have been upstaged by junior karting sensation Ashlyn Speed. The 11-year-old Texan missed school to attend the luncheon for a chance to meet Rossi.

She even requested Rossi write a written absence excuse letter for Brooke Moose, the school principal at Bear Creek Elementary in Euless, Texas. Rossi gladly obliged, penning a note that read: “Please excuse Ashlyn Speed from school on Wednesday because she is getting to meet the 2016 Indy 500 winner, Alexander Rossi. Ms. Moose, Thank you for letting Ashlyn come.” Rossi signed the bottom of the note.

TMS president Eddie Gossage invited Speed on stage to take part in a ceremonial milk toast with Rossi to conclude the luncheon. With the famous Borg-Warner wreath draped around her neck, Speed chugged the champagne flute of milk symbolic of the tradition that takes place in Victory Circle at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the winners of the Indianapolis 500.

Alexander Rossi

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