Sunday, 1 March, 2009 12:15 PM
Country Meets NASCAR at Sprint Sound & Speed
Johnson of Diamond Rio, Danielle Peck, Kyle Petty, Dale Earnhardt
Jr. and Aaron Tippin field fan questions.
2009 CMA Close Up News Service
On Jan. 9 and 10, the
fourth annual Sprint Sound & Speed Presented by SunTrust proved
as much family reunion as festival, with fans and stars of Country
Music and NASCAR gathered in the heart of Music City. In addition
to providing world-class Country entertainment, this event is a
fund raiser for two worthy causes: the Country Music Hall of Fame
and Museum and Victory Junction, which offers year-round camping
experiences for children, 6-16, who suffer from chronic medical
conditions or serious illness.
About 8,000 fans took
part this year. And while the earnings for charity haven't been
tallied, the previous three years drew a total of 40,000 fans and
raised approximately $800,000. This success would be no surprise
to the late Brian Williams, former Senior VP of SunTrust, whose
belief that Country Music and NASCAR go together "like peanut
butter and jelly" inspired him and artist manager Don Light
to conceive this event.
A comment made by racing
icon Richard Petty confirmed this kinship during the first gathering
in 2006. During a question-and-answer session with his peer in Country
Music, George Jones, Petty said of stock-car fans, "They listen
to George getting to the race, and they watch the cars getting around
the track and then they listen to George getting home from the race."
The Petty clan is a part
of the event's backbone. Not only was Kyle Petty in attendance,
but he and his wife Pattie founded Victory Junction in memory of
their son Adam, who died in May 2000 during a practice run at the
New Hampshire International Speedway.
A Friday night concert
at the Sommet Center kicked the two-day event into honky-tonkin'
overdrive. After opening sets by Rodney Atkins and Julianne Hough,
headliners Montgomery Gentry fed off the crowd's energy and performed
long into the night.
Saturday's action shifted
a few blocks away to the Fan Festival at Nashville Municipal Auditorium,
where folks lined up for autographs and photos with their favorites.
Participants from the automotive world included Dale Earnhardt Jr.,
Denny Hamlin, Ernie Irvan, Kyle Petty, Darrell Waltrip and Michael
Waltrip as well as Sam Bass, American motorsports illustrator and
Dierks Bentley, John
Conlee, Diamond Rio, "Nashville Star" finalist Gabe Garcia,
Randy Houser, Charlie Louvin, Richie McDonald, Danielle Peck, Crystal
Shawanda, Connie Smith, Aaron Tippin and Josh Turner were among
those representing Country.
Between munching on old-fashioned
midway food, fans visited with the stars, enjoyed Q&A sessions
and even indulged in a bit of interactive fantasy. One such attraction
allowed participants to show their pit row mettle by being timed
as they replaced race car wheels. They could also pose for pictures
with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars that will be driven this season
by Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Tony Stewart.
If that wasn't enough,
fans could bid on items donated by the stars. Among the items being
auctioned were a weekend at Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway,
a guitar signed by Big & Rich, another guitar signed by more
than 30 drivers and Country artists and a variety of items donated
and autographed by Greg Biffle, Brooks & Dunn, Dale Earnhardt
Jr., Sara Evans, Tony Stewart and Gretchen Wilson. And on the day
when the Tennessee Titans were locked in a playoff battle with the
Baltimore Ravens just across the Cumberland River, fans also bid
on a helmet autographed by the home team's defensive end, Kyle Vanden
were impressed and excited by this year's event, particularly those
who took part for the first time. "This was our first experience
with Sound & Speed - what an awesome event," said Kate
& Kacey, recently
signed to Big Machine Records. "NASCAR fans and Country Music
fans are one and the same, and it's fun to bring us all together
for the Victory Junction and the Country Music Hall of Fame and
"Sound & Speed
is the perfect opportunity to bring Country Music fans and NASCAR
fans together to enjoy getting close to artists and drivers,"
added Arista Nashville artist Jason Michael Carroll. "It's
also great to watch how the two naturally go hand in hand."
For HeadCoach Records
artist Rick Huckaby, who made his first appearance this year at
Sound & Speed in the autograph segment, the ties between Country
and NASCAR are deep. "The word I keep coming back to is 'passion,'"
he explained. "NASCAR fans are very passionate. They stick
with their favorite drivers. They're loyal, which is very much like
Country Music fans - the greatest fans in the world."
As for Steve Buchanan,
Chairman of the Board for Sprint Sound & Speed and Senior VP,
Media & Entertainment, Gaylord Entertainment, the result of
this event is "to bring artists and drivers together to interact
and further relationships between these two worlds. Loyalties develop,
and from a fan perspective there are expectations that these people
are your neighbors."
Someplace in the arena,
the spirit of the late, great Marty Robbins was smiling. After all,
he lived the connection between Country Music and auto racing by
being equally at home behind the wheel of a stock car as he was
out in the West Texas town of El Paso.
Peck and Dale Earnhardt Jr. sign autographs.
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