Nuggets' Anthony to be co-owner of IRL team

Updated: March 20, 2006, 9:49 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets will be a co-owner of the Hemelgarn team in the Indy Racing League, a partnership designed in part to broaden the series' appeal to a younger generation of race fans.

The deal between the IRL team and the 21-year-old Anthony, one of the top young stars in the NBA, was brokered by rock guitarist and member of KISS Gene Simmons, whose marketing company signed a deal to promote the open-wheel series in January.

"It was my group, his group, going back and forth for a long period of time," Anthony said Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "The opportunity was there and I couldn't let it slip out of my hands to be involved in something like this."

Rookie P.J. Chesson, a sprint car driver and four-time World of Outlaws winner who debuted in the IRL developmental Indy Pro Series two years ago, will drive the No. 91 blue and white Dallara, which carries the name "Car Melo" and a likeness of the NBA star.

"For the record, I'm not getting in the car. I can't fit into no Indy car," the 6-foot-8 Anthony said. "I'm just excited about the project. I think we're going to have a lot of fun."

Anthony, seventh in NBA scoring at 26.3 points a game, was in Indianapolis for the Nuggets' game Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers.

Last week, Anthony, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and 20 other players were selected to the USA Basketball team for possible spots on the world championship and 2008 Beijing Olympic teams.

"When I really like something, I try to put my all into it," Anthony said. "This is something that's different from when I was growing up on the basketball court, running up and down, scoring 30 points or something. This is totally something different."

Simmons, who wrote a 91-second promotional anthem called "I Am Indy," also attended the announcement at the Speedway, along with his marketing partner Richard Abramson.

"I'm perhaps the public persona of a really simple message: You should all be blessed because you're standing on hallowed ground," Simmons said. "This is the Indy, baby. ... These are the fastest cars on four wheels. We have rock stars and rockets. These cars will drive on the ceiling.

"We intend on carrying this message around the world, because it deserves it," he said. "Indy? I am Indy, baby."

Team owner Ron Hemelgarn won the 2000 IRL championship and the 1996 Indianapolis 500 with driver Buddy Lazier.

He said Anthony, the 27-year-old Chesson and Simmons' promotion would "create excitement, a new fan base and attention" to the IRL.

"This kind of promotion is not just about Hemelgarn Racing. This is about the Indy Racing League, what it's going to do for the league," Hemelgarn said. "This kid [Chesson] comes from where I like, sprint cars and so on. Gene, that guy is motivated all the time. When the opportunity came about, I thought it was great."

Anthony said he would try to attend as many races as possible, including the Indy 500 on May 28 if the Nuggets are not in the NBA playoffs.

"I hope we'll be playing. But if we're not, then I'll be here," he said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press