NASCAR & Auto Racing

Kansas Speedway grand marshal Mark-Paul Gosselaar discusses racing chops

tpalmer@kcstar.com

Grand Marshal Mark Paul Gosselaar answers questions from the media during a press conference before Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Hollywood Casino 400 race Sunday at the Kansas Speedway.
Grand Marshal Mark Paul Gosselaar answers questions from the media during a press conference before Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Hollywood Casino 400 race Sunday at the Kansas Speedway. jledford@kcstar.com

The coolest kid at Bayside High got to do the coolest thing a NASCAR fan can do Sunday when Mark-Paul Gosselaar gave the starting command before the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

“People always ask you, ‘Do you ever get nervous doing what you do?’ ” Gosselaar said. “Yes, moments like these, I get a little nervous. I’m like, ‘How am I going to hit that? Where am I going to put the emphasis on — drivers or start or engines?’ Thank God for showers, which is where I’ve been practicing is in the shower.”

Gosselaar stars in the new NBC comedy “Truth Be Told,” which debuted Friday. Sunday’s Sprint Cup series race was televised by NBC, but it’s his love of motorsports that made him a perfect fit to serve as grand marshal.

“I’ve had dreams of being in motorsports in some capacity, but I think I’m going to stick to this acting thing,” Gosselaar said. “I think it’s doing OK for me.”

Gosselaar, who rocketed to fame in the early 1990s as Zack Morris on “Saved By the Bell,” has been to several NASCAR-related events at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif..

“I’ve actually done a few track days at Fontana on my road bike,” said Gosselaar, who also starred in “NYPD Blue” and “Franklin & Bash.”

Gosselaar met Danica Patrick and raced in the same go-kart series early in her career. He more recently dipped his toes in the stock-car racing waters, winning two races and finishing third in three starts at Irwindale Speedway in California.

He’s also raced in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach celebrity race, and acquired his license for the Sports Car Club of America Barber Dodge Pro Series.

Racing is in his blood.

“I was born into a motocross family,” Gosselaar said. “My brother Mike Gosselaar is one of the most prolific (American Motorcyclist Association) mechanics ever. He was the mechanic for Ricky Carmichael during Ricky Carmichael’s two perfect seasons in motocross.”

Mike also worked on Chad Reed and Jeremy McGrath’s crews.

Gosselaar is used to fawning fans and a life in the spotlight, but he admitted that being immersed in the NASCAR culture brought out the fan in him.

“I haven’t met Jeff (Gordon), but even meeting Richard Childress when I met him, I’m like, ‘That’s RCR Racing,’” Gosselaar said. “I get blown away by things like that.”

Gosselaar said his kids to school at the same private school as Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl and several other celebrities. He’s not awestruck meeting them anymore.

“But you come to a track and you see Richard Petty or if I got to meet Jeff Gordon or even Jimmie (Johnson), that’s where I sort of turn into a big fan,” Gosselaar said.

For Sunday’s race, Gosselaar said he was pulling for Gordon, who will retire from driving full-time on the Sprint Cup Series after the season.

“Us old guys gotta kind of stick together,” Gosselaar said.

Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer

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