'Parks and Recreation' star Chris Pratt enjoys new role as pace car driver, honorary Hoosier
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Chris Pratt has caught passes from Andrew Luck, sampled the spicy shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s and driven the pace car at the Brickyard 400.
He plays an Indiana resident on TV, and he’s fit right in as an honorary Hoosier at a trifecta of must-see landmarks in Indianapolis.
“You can tell, I’ve been treated really well when I’ve come here,” Pratt said.
Pratt was at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday to drive the pace car and promote his newest movie, “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The 35-year-old star of the TV show “Parks and Recreation” watched part of the race from Tony Stewart’s pit box. He’s still a race novice, though he did say he had heard of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, and Jeff Gordon.
“I can’t believe it’s taken me 35 years to see NASCAR in person. This is unbelievable. I am seriously hooked,” he said from Stewart’s pit stall during an early caution.
He tweeted a picture of him chatting with Johnson with the caption, “What a cool guy!”
“I didn’t understand the importance of the pace car. But there’s a real importance, to establish on their tachometers what is 55 mph so when they come through pit road they don’t get penalized,” Pratt said earlier Sunday in an interview with The Associated Press.
“So my plan is, set ‘em at 58. I’ll sit back and just make some bets. Then I’ll watch everyone get penalized. Cash in and buy an island.”
He’s doing just fine cashing in at the box office. Pratt also voiced the lead in the hit animated film “The Lego Movie” this year. With a “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Pratt’s films may surpass $1 billion at the box office in 2014.
Pratt plays lovably goofy Andy Dwyer on “Parks and Recreation,” set in the fictional Pawnee, Indiana. He was on hand when the show filmed scenes in Indianapolis, including a guest shot from Luck. Luck tossed passes to the stars of the show for filming at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Of course, a stop in Indy meant a dinner date at St. Elmo’s, as much a city institution as the Indianapolis 500 or Monument Circle.
Pratt has a big appetite for fun in Indy. He tweeted Saturday night about the smells of a rib festival held a few blocks from his hotel.
“I got out of the hotel and I smelled donuts,” he said. “I was like, do you smell that? People were like yeah, I kinda do. Kinda do!? It was like a hot funnel cake wind in my face. I am moving to Indianapolis where the hot wind reeks of funnel cake. Maybe I’m just hungry, but no I could smell it, man.
“Ribfest. I want to move here. This is my kind of place.”
Pratt can be excused for the hunger pangs. He had to shed his doughy middle for the chiseled physique he needed to play starring roles in “Zero Dark Thirty,” and the upcoming “Guardians.” Pratt gave up sugar, bread and alcohol to transform his body to that of a traditional action hero.
In “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which Disney will release Aug. 1, Pratt stars as a space adventurer who unwittingly becomes the target of an intergalactic manhunt.
“It’s like Star Wars, in a way,” Pratt said. “It’s this epic space odyssey that’s unlike anything that’s ever come before it. I’m so proud of it. I’m just so proud of it.”
He’s keeping the hard abs. Pratt, who returns to shoot “Parks” in two weeks, has already signed on for a “Guardians” sequel. He has extra motivation — his young son with wife and actress Anna Ferris.
“I want to live a long time,” he said. “Healthy living turns out to be a big part of that.”