Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will fire up the starting grid for Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Being named the grand marshal for a motor sports event is a first for the mayor, who is best known outside Sacramento as a former NBA All-Star point guard. But it's his ties to Cal basketball that got him the gig in Sonoma.
Steve Page, president of the raceway in Sonoma, is, like Johnson, a Cal alum.
"Kevin Johnson is a true sports legend in Northern California and he holds a special place in the hearts of Cal basketball fans," Page said in a news release.
Johnson revitalized Cal's basketball program, leading the Bears to the National Invitational Tournament in 1986, the school's first postseason in 26 years. He left Cal as its leader in assists, steals and scoring. Johnson, who was the first Bears player to have his jersey retired, was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in March.
As mayor, Johnson is always trying to bring new events to his city. So how about an IndyCar race through the streets of Sacramento and across the river into Yolo County?
Think 150 mph along L Street by the state Capitol, down to Third Street, back up Capitol Mall, down to 29th Street, make a left back to L Street past Sutter's Fort and back down to the Capitol.
"That's the next level," Johnson said. "I can imagine cars speeding down Capitol Mall, across Tower Bridge, roaring around Raley Field and back across I Street bridge, through Old Sac and out J Street.
"It would make people envious in Monaco."
Harbaugh at Sonoma
Jim Harbaugh is part-owner of Panther Racing, and his team will debut a specially designed 49ers-themed car for Sunday's IndyCar race. Driver JR Hildebrand, of nearby Sausalito, will wear a fire suit designed to look like a 49ers jersey.
The car will feature several large 49ers logos, and the front cowling will have a decal made to look like laces on a football.
"Jim likes to downplay his involvement, but he was an instrumental part of our team getting off the ground in 1997, and he helped lay the foundation that led Panther to two IndyCar championships," team owner John Barnes said in a news release.
Harbaugh won't be at the race, though. As coach of the 49ers, he'll be needed on the sidelines Sunday in Denver as his team takes on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.