Banister's pace-car experience 'exhilarating'

Rangers manager performs honorary duties at NASCAR event

Banister's pace-car experience 'exhilarating'

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Rangers manager Jeff Banister is in his comfort zone in front of thousands of people on a baseball diamond.

On Sunday, though, Banister stepped out of his comfort zone and into a different sporting environment. He was the honorary pace-car driver for 40 Sprint Cup drivers at the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Unfortunately for Banister, he never got to take the green flag. After getting on the track for morning practice, Banister couldn't wait through a delay of more than six hours, as he had another engagement Sunday evening.

Despite missing the start, Banister was able to get his fill of NASCAR during his time at the track.

"I think it was the fastest 45 mph I've ever gone," Banister said. "It was exhilarating for me. It was kind of one of those bucket-list things for me."

Banister attended the race with his wife, Karen, and son, Jacob. They attended the pre-race driver's meeting and walked through the pits before rain came through the area just before the green flag was set to drop. Banister also got to spend a few minutes with actor Chuck Norris before getting in his practice work.

It was a pretty cool experience for the manager of the Texas Rangers to meet the star of "Walker, Texas Ranger."

"That was incredible for me," Banister said. "I got to watch the show. I enjoyed him, first of all a tremendous person, very engaging, looks you in the eye. He's very personable, and I love that about him and then just who he is as a person. Kind of understanding who he is, what he stands for, what he's come through. I was a little bit star-struck there for a little while when he came over and shook my hand and gave me a great big hug. I loved every second of it."

While Banister wasn't racing at 200 mph like the rest of the drivers, the feeling of driving on the track was a new one for him.

"You don't realize just how steep it really is until you actually get up there," Banister said. "Even more so, when you're driving around it and actually feeling the force of the car and the embankment. My hat's off to the guys who actually go around there really fast."

Banister may have spent part of his day as a spectator at the track, but his focus is still squarely on the Rangers. He watched the thrilling World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians as a fan of the game, though that's not what the manager of the two-time defending American League West champs has in mind for the future. He knows the Rangers are close, but they still have work to do.

"The next step for us as an organization, we have to be better, we have to get better," Banister said. "Ninety-five wins is tremendous, albeit there's 11 more we need to accomplish in the postseason. For our general manager, our front office, it's about structuring a team that can continue to compete and win the American League West but also get into the playoffs and ultimately bring a World Series championship back to the state of Texas. We need some more starting pitching, and I think that will be our focus this year."

Anthony Andro is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.