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Jeff Blashill soaks in NASCAR experience

Red Wings coach serves as grand marshal for Pure Michigan 400 @NHLdotcom

Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill is used to fast-paced action on the ice but spent Sunday watching cars travel more than 200 mph on the race track while serving as grand marshal for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400.

Blashill, who grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, gave the command to "Start your engines," and the race, which took place at Michigan International Speedway.

Tweet from @NASCAR: "Drivers, start your engines!!!" #NASCARonNBCSN

He also took a ride in the pace car.

"It raised my respect level for the drivers [since they] double the speed we were going and with 40 other cars out there bumping and grinding," Blashill told "It was incredible to hit that turn and not feel the brakes. I didn't talk to my driver the whole time, I didn't want to distract him."

Blashill talked to NASCAR driver Michael Annett, who used to play for Waterloo in the United States Hockey League.

Tweet from @MichaelAnnett: Michael chats with coach Jeff Blashill of the @DetroitRedWings about their hockey days in Des Moines, Iowa.

"During my time in Des Moines, Michael Annett was a young hockey player growing up," Blashill said. "We've got mutual connections to some real good friends of mine. I've always kept track of his career and how he's done, so I'm excited to watch him here."

Blashill joined goalie Jimmy Howard, defenseman Niklas Kronwall and retired NHL goalie Chris Osgood as Red Wings who have helped start the race.

"I've got great pride for the state of Michigan," Blashill said. "I say all the time I want to be the best state in the union and I think we are. When I had the opportunity to do this and be part of this experience, it was a no-brainer for me."

Blashill guided the Red Wings to a 41-30-11 record and their 25th straight appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, his first as coach, before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round. He said he would try to use the day as a learning experience.

"I'm excited, too, to see pit road and just see everything that goes into the team of it," Blashill said. "All of the little intricacies, I've looked for learning opportunities in lots of different spots."

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