TALLADEGA — Gus Malzahn got a good look a hurry-up attack Sunday as he served as the pace-car driver for the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

“I tell you what, when you get here and you see the track and we got a chance to drive around for a practice lap, it’s really hard to believe they’re going that fast that close to each other,” the Auburn football coach said. “What really stood out to me is the steepness of the turns. It’s got a little bit of a wow factor.”

Malzahn spoke with reporters before taking his drive around the track, addressing a variety of issues, including the odds of his star running back, Tre Mason, making a solid transition to the NFL. The annual draft is set to start Thursday.

“Tre, I really felt like the second half of the season, was the best running back in the country — how tough he is running between the tackles," Malzahn said. "I think he’s going to be an excellent pro. We’re definitely rooting for him.”

Malzahn mentioned he wants to serve as a role model to his players. When he was beginning his coaching career at Hughes High School in Arkansas, Malzahn turned to Barry Lunney, a respected prep head coach. Lunney, now the head coach at Bentonville (Ark.) High, has won more than 200 games and seven state championships dating back to his first one in 1991.

“As a young coach, you’re always looking for somebody you want to model yourself after,” Malzahn said. “His professionalism and he won, so early in my career I wanted to be just like him. He’s a definite positive role model.”