When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series puts on an event at one of 23 facilities across the country, it likes to put celebrities in pace cars and arrange for music stars to perform on a pre-race concert stage.
The purpose is to entertain fans before they experience the roar of 43 powerful race cars speeding and bumping their way to checkered flags.
Celebrities combine special abilities and fortunate circumstances to achieve fame.
After 15 years behind abundant recorders and lenses, this reporter/photographer is still measurably impressed by answers collected from motorsports stars and other celebrities.
Many comments from big-name achievers shared here came from countless media encounters, and most resulted from live TV microphones in NASCAR media centers.
Take a moment to ride along the edge of stardom, and share some select answers to this lucky reporter’s questions. Five top names talk now. More will speak out later.
The best hope is that words from these five legends will be of benefit to at least one dreamer out there—a visionary hoping to climb an incredibly steep ladder.
When asked to compare his band members with NASCAR team members at Daytona International Speedway, country music star Lee Brice spoke about similarities.
“I know in NASCAR, in the eyes of everybody, it’s the driver that wins the race, but that’s not what is,” Brice said. “It’s the crew, everybody, the guy working on the car, changing the wheels, putting gas in the tank. My band members do all the work. Not just them, it’s management and press agents. It’s very parallel. It’s such a team effort.”
Dierks Bentley, country music singer and songwriter, was asked about any correlation between champions and country music stars. At Homestead Miami Speedway Bentley spoke about fans immediately.
“I think fans are the big key to both,” Bentley said. “We wouldn’t have anything to discuss if it weren’t for our fans. The fans are out there supporting them, cheering for them, buying their merchandise. I think fans are the big key to both worlds.”
“It’s just a love of doing it, whether it’s getting up there and sing every night or getting in the car and driving it.”
Another country music star, three-time Grammy Award winner Brad Paisley, shared his thoughts at DIS when asked about being starstruck in his rise to fame. Fans understand emotional waves that surround those who spew stardust.
“You run into somebody like Jeff Gordon, do a skit with him on the CMA Awards,” Paisley said. “The fact that I’ve struck up a friendship with him, that is mind blowing to me.
“It’s the things—the little spider web of things—that you don’t expect, that come with success in the industry, that are sometimes the most exciting and thrilling.
“Sometimes you get to know guys like Clint Eastwood. You get to be around Jeff Gordon and meet Jimmie Johnson. It is thrilling.”
In Mario Andretti’s legendary career, the racing icon has raced and won in just about everything with four wheels and an engine. His name stands out like a beacon in a midnight sky. Like Bentley, he credits fans.
“Half of the story is to love what you are doing,” Andretti said. “This has been my life, and I've been fortunate to be around for quite a long time. I've been very lucky thoughout my career. The fans are fabulous. The fans are loyal. That's the way it works."
Richard Petty is as iconic as his feathered cowboy hat. Petty made a stellar name winning in NASCAR and sharing abundant time with fans. His grandson, Adam Petty, died racing. Victory Junction Gang was created by son Kyle Petty and his wife to benefit disabled children.
It’s common for celebrities to donate time, money and efforts to benefit those less fortunate. The King shared his thoughts.
"When you start out, you're mainly interested in is you and your family,” Petty said. “That was the first charity. You take care of that over a period of years.”
“But to expand that and be able to go out and have a little extra around. Where you could help people out and take it to charitable deals. You do everything you can to make it work."
Brice added comments after his media-center press conference during a NASCAR garage tour provided by DIS. Brice was asked about the July event compared to other venues.
“My kind of people,” Brice said. “One race that I attended a lot growing up was Talladega. I spent a week in the infield for about seven years. I never got to come in and see this kind of stuff, but these are my kind of people…this is me.”
“I get to play to my family. That’s the difference.”
Sharing comments with fans about fans and others by famous folks is the focus for this series. Often, these heartfelt words aren’t gathered in one place for those in a world tuned to now. Other comments will be assembled in subsequent articles. Hopefully, that will give readers an inside look to this special, iconic world.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.