Ice-T might be on the set of “Law & Order” when he takes a call to jet off to some far-flung destination with Marco Andretti and his celebrity pals.
“This guy vacations with Ludacris and Kevin Hart. Who the (heck) does that,” Ice-T asked with a laugh. “They call me up like, ‘Yo, Ice, we’re in Africa. You should come.’ I’m like, you (guys) is rich. I’ve got to work. What the (heck) are you talking about?”
The fact that Ice-T — one of the first gangsta rappers — has his number flagged in Andretti’s favorites — the driver now an Indianapolis 500 pole sitter and a member of racing royalty — seems an unlikely friendship. The actor straight out of South Central says the bond runs deeper than chilling at meals out at trendy restaurants and test drives in luxury cars.
It’s true. When his bulldog Maximus produced a litter of puppies, Andretti adopted one and named him Moodie.
“That makes us related,” Ice-T said, laughing.
Ice-T is the top dog among Andretti’s inner circle of A-list friends. Even for race car drivers, who love to schmooze with entertainment’s elite, Andretti’s crew boasts enough star power to film a reality show. His sister-in-law is a model and actress; comedian Jeffrey Ross and actress Nina Dobrev are friends; he paddleboards with Ludacris and Hart; gets shoutouts from Paris Hilton; and his nearly decade-long bromance with Ice-T has made him the envy of the paddock.
Andretti’s IndyCar friends are thrilled to tag along on his lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous getaways.
“He gets to hang with cool people because he is a cool person,” IndyCar driver and friend Conor Daly said. “Marco invited me to (Miami). We picked up Ludacris in an Uber and we went to a yacht and spent a day on a yacht. Was that potentially the coolest time I ever had in my life? Yes. Did I deserve to be there? Absolutely not.”
Ice-T knows a thing or two about that when he’s out hanging with the 33-year-old Andretti. Like when Andretti hopped behind the wheel of Ice-T’s Bentley GT and whipped it around the neighborhood. Or the time Marco’s grandfather Mario, the 1969 Indianapolis 500 champion, took Ice-T’s son for a spin around the race family’s Nazareth, Pennsylvania, neighborhood in a Lamborghini.
Their friendship was forged years ago in the Bal Harbour shopping district when Ice-T was in town for the IndyCar race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Ice-T was friendly with another of IndyCar’s great racing families, the Rahals, and was invited to attend the race. Ice-T was with his wife while they were out shopping when he was spotted by Andretti.
“At that time, I couldn’t have picked Marco out of a crowd. I knew the name but I didn’t know him,” Ice-T told The Associated Press. “So we had common likes. I like racing. I’m also friends with Lewis Hamilton. I like the racing scene. And he likes hip-hop. It was like a tradeoff.
“He can get me to the races and keep me in the race world and I can walk him through hip hop,” he added. "We were able to facilitate each other’s likes without going in our pocket! That’s how the friendship really began.”
Take an August 2019 tweet when Andretti wrote, “dropping it straight, point blank and untwisted. No imagination needed, cause I lived it.”
“ Indy Driver @MarcoAndretti knows the words! ????” the rapper replied to the lyrics of his hit “O.G. Original Gangster.”
“When he’s around me, we don’t even talk a lot about racing,” Ice-T said. “We talk about having fun and family. He’s more into that hip hop (music). He’s always like, send me something new, send me something nobody’s got.”
Ice-T has an understanding of the enormous amount of pressure Andretti is under as the favorite to win Sunday’s race. Andretti has only two wins in 240 career IndyCar starts and none since 2011. Andretti has finished all over the map at Indy, from runner-up his rookie year to a disastrous 26th last season.
“I think for himself, taking the pole proves that, ‘I can win and go as fast and faster than anybody here,’” Ice-T said.
He had it on Sunday. Even Team Penske’s drivers, among his biggest rivals and watching from inside the garage, cheered Andretti’s pole-winning moment.
“I think what people like that like about me is that I don’t treat them any different,” Andretti said. “A lot of people, when they get to that stature, you can say, they have a lot of ‘yes’ men. I call it how it is and they like that. I just try and be down to earth and good people.”
Ice-T fits that bill as well. It’s one reason why the Andrettis enjoy their time with Ice and his wife, Coco.
“He also knows when Marco’s in my world, he’s safe,” Ice-T said, laughing. “Marco’s not running around with Little Pookie or some (stupid) young rapper where he can end up in some (trouble). He’s with Ice. We got him. He ain’t got no problems with us.”
Ice-T might have hit Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500 under a normal year. He’s gone before but will be at home Sunday.
“I’m like, dude, we’re going to be home rooting for you. You’ve got to win this,” Ice-T said. “I just want him to have a fair race where the car runs. I don’t want 200 miles and then some kind of mechanical (stuff). That would be unacceptable.”
AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer contributed to this report.
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