Chase Rice on ESPN NASCAR coverage

April, 5, 2014
The title track from country artist Chase Rice's album "Ready Steady Roll" is being featured this month on ESPN's NASCAR programming.

To hear a sample or purchase the song and/or album, click here: (iTunes | Amazon)

Chase Rice

50 CentFinlay MacKay for ESPNAlready involved in boxing, 50 Cent is now venturing into NASCAR.
You would think you know Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s distinct laugh.

You’d heard it in its highest pitch on the rap legend’s tracks, between his muscular rhymes, but off the mic it sounds heartier, more devil-may-care and less of a snickering giggle. It’s the laugh of a man who’s been down, and way up, and will stay way up until he’s in the grave, and he knows that you know this, too.

Aside from a still-ticking recording career, Jackson is the proud owner of upstart boxing promotion-outfit SMS Promotions and the founder and CEO of SMS Audio, a consumer electronics manufacturer of headphones and audio products. Launched in 2011, the latter enterprise is aiming to seize control of the premium headset marketplace that it shares with Beats by Dre with two sports-related ventures. One is an equity ownership and ambassadorial deal, signed in December, with New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. The new, more surprising pact, announced Tuesday, pairs 50 Cent with Swan Racing as an associate sponsor on the stock-car team’s No. 26 and No. 30 Toyota Camrys during the 2014 and 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seasons.

The new partnership will include SMS Audio branding on the two cars and on their drivers’ uniforms, as well as Swan-branded headphones featuring his wheelmen, Cole Whitt and Parker Kligerman. You can also look for 50 Cent at races throughout the season.

The former pugilist and Knicks lifer called me Monday for an exclusive and wide-ranging interview that covered the New Yorker's NASCAR venture, boxing promotion, upcoming album, as well as his thoughts on the Bieber-Floyd duo, Melo and the Knicks, Kobe and the Lakers, and his fear of Meryl Streep. Apparently some things, like the Oscar-winning actress, can scare 50 Cent.

[Editor’s note: this interview includes mature language.]

50, let’s start with the NASCAR deal. If we were playing a name association game where somebody says “NASCAR,” I’d never in a million years utter “50 Cent.” How did this venture come about?

[Laughs] Well, it’s collaboration between SMS and Swan Racing. I attended the Daytona 500 last year and there was so much publicity -- and an awkward moment: I was saying hi to [reporter] Erin Andrews and she turned around right at the same time, and I almost kissed her. It got 10 million views online. And I enjoyed myself [at the race] and I became open to the idea. I watched it a lot on TV and hung out with [drivers] at parties, but that was the first race I actually attended.

What is it about the sport that appeals to you?

I liked NASCAR before I knew what it was. I had toy cars as a kid. I developed a fetish. Listen, parents paint the room pink for a girl, blue for a boy, and if they’re buying a toy for a boy, it’d be a car. I’d actually cry if I didn’t have my cars. So I already had that fascination.

Say no more -- I loved my Hot Wheels.

They did it to you, too. [Laughs] I love those little cars that you roll and you make the noise.

I’m picturing Little 50 making engine noises for his toy cars.

[Laughs.] Yup, just manual car movement back then.

What was it about Swan Racing that made them a good fit for SMS?

It’s a young company, and they got really good drivers with something to prove. The Seahawks showed us in the Super Bowl that a young team can make things happen. We got two drivers that SMS will be connected to: Cole Whitt and Parker Kligerman. They’re both in the running for rookie of The year. They’re hungry. You want to be attached to that. Sometimes, people in a good spot become complacent. You won’t outwork these guys. I’m conscious of that.

I’d imagine few things in this world scare you. Is racing around a NASCAR track one of them?

For people who haven’t been to a race, I urge them to get out there. I thought I knew what it was, watching it on TV. But when you go there, you can feel the car moving around the track. It gives you a new perspective. I have a car collection myself.

What’s the fastest car you've got?

Right now, I got a Lamborghini. I don’t actually race it. But the Porsche [911] Turbo is fast. I’d rather race the Porsche Turbo on an actual track.

What’s the fastest you’ve ever driven?

You mean on the highway? Like 120 mph.

I won’t tell anybody.

Naw, it was late night! I ain’t got no ticket -- how you gonna confirm it? [Laughs.] You know I entertain people. Well, I was doing that for entertainment.

50 Cent
Jeff Siner/Getty ImagesAs part of the agreement with Swan Racing, rapper 50 Cent will make appearances at NASCAR races throughout the season.
NASCAR isn’t exactly known for its diversity, in terms of fans or drivers. Does that trouble you, or is that perhaps a part of the appeal for you, or both?

Yeah, for me to be in this space, it’s not common for them to do this. With their tradition in marketing, you end up -- where you have huge success is when you go outside of that cookie-cutter mentality and the norms. Hip-hop culture is exposed to the point where it’s pop culture now. Even skateboarding is a part of hip-hop culture. So a lot of viewers of NASCAR, they actually choose hip-hop culture as a preference in music. They played hip-hop music while I was at the Daytona 500. Hip-hop is already there. It’s just about them actually getting involved more.

Today we’re increasingly seeing music and sports using each other to sell products. Some of it makes sense, like the Raptors enlisting Drake. But some of it feels like selling out. Some of it makes no sense, like Justin Bieber walking Floyd Mayweather Jr. to the ring.

[Laughs] It does make sense, actually. You look at this initially and think, 'Why is Floyd actually doing that?' But Justin has struck a chord with kids and everybody else. Floyd looked at it as, having somebody around him from music culture will catapult him in viewership. You know, the first person who came out with Floyd was me. And, look, there’s a lot of interesting s--- goin’ on with Justin Bieber right now. [Laughs]

You’re a boxing promoter. Would you want Bieber walking one of your SMS Promotions fighters to the ring?

Yeah, but not a new guy -- an established fighter. A guy whose brand is developed can handle that [Bieber-related publicity]. It’s just an additional conversation piece. If we’re not talking about Floyd and his fights, we’re talking about Bieber being there. It just makes it more relevant.

Another hot trend has music titans taking active roles in sports, as owners and management types. Jay-Z jumped from Nets minority owner to agent, Justin Timberlake has a stake in the Grizzlies and you have your boxing promotion. What makes music artists think they can succeed in sports?

Well, for the most part, they kind of follow each other. Teams that these artists actually associate with are in the actual territory that they’re relevant in, and that they’re actually from. With the Nets, Jay-Z has a strong connection to Brooklyn -- and how much do the Nets have to spend on marketing in Brooklyn, and later to build Barclays Arena? See what I’m sayin’? People can feel like they’re associated to him. I think Usher had a portion of the team, too.

And for the artists, it’s good business. The sports business model is pretty healthy due to TV rights.

And whenever we have a chance to relax, we’re [tuning into] media. Even if you’re on vacation somewhere, there’s gonna be some sort of film, TV or music connected to what you’re doing to relax. And sports are a big part of what goes on on the networks because it’s a one-off event. You can’t re-do a basketball game. That’s the difference between music and sports. Music is a performance that repeats itself, until you revamp the entire show.

What’s the latest with SMS Promotions?

I have two fighters getting ready to fight on HBO. Shortly you’ll see Mikey Garcia versus Yuriorkis Gamboa. Following that, James Kirkland, we’re matchmaking him now. You’ll see that on HBO Sports.

Is the climb to the top of the boxing world more difficult than you thought it would be?

It’s not. You know what I think? There’s an “old boys club” in boxing and they don’t really like new people. [Laughs] I’m tellin’ you, this is true. I’ve never seen traditional business people have the thought process of, “If it’s not mine, destroy it.” The sport of boxing is more like, “If it’s not my fighter who’s becoming the man, destroy the other one.” That’s their intention. They end up destroying the guy who could’ve been the new big guy. So if you have a fighter who could be the next big star, you’ll end up feeling negative energy from multiple angles, multiple promoters who are trying to create a scenario that can damage you.

It sounds like your music gig. Much of hip-hip is about hating on the next guy.

It’s competitive. The difference between hip-hop and the mentality that’s running boxing is, there’s always ten guys in the Top 10 on the countdown. No matter how valuable you are to it, there will always be 10 in the Top 10. A lot of artists don’t accept it. I think when they have that tunnel vision and they can actually see that it keeps going without them, it allows them creatively to do things they normally wouldn’t do.

You started boxing at 11, competed as an amateur. Then you got in trouble. Do you ever wonder what might have been, had you stuck with it?

Oh, I don’t know. The only distraction that I had at that time was the constraints of finance, which forced me to look at other things in my environment, and that got me in trouble. But I think I’d be pretty good today. I’m still pretty physical now, know what I mean? But I’ve just been living vicariously through fighters. What made the relationship with me and Floyd be public -- Floyd was following me around since 2002. You just didn’t see us publicly around each other until I had time, because I had to deal with the business of the music business. I hadn’t released music in some time. It’s been almost four years since my last project.

When can we expect your next album?

Now that I have everything cleared up, I’m ready to release music, and I’m really excited about it. I got a project coming out: “Animal Ambition” will be out before the first quarter ends. It’s about the untamed desire to win.

Back to SMS, you have Carmelo Anthony selling your headphones. Dr. Dre has LeBron James to help sell Beats. Who do you like in a one-on-one game, to 10, between Melo and LeBron?

Man, you know what? Right now, I’d take Melo. Melo’s hot right now, baby. Just broke the [Madison Square Garden] record, 62 points. Melo’s not just selling my headsets. He’s an actual equity owner in the company now. He’s involved in a different way. It’s cool to have somebody with me who means something not just to sports, but overall. Him and [music producer and SMS-partner] Timbaland have been a great help.

Who wins between you and Dre in a one-on-one game to 10?

In basketball? [Laughs] That’d be good. Let’s get him out there. He can’t keep up with me. God damn it, I told you I’m physical! I’ll run circles around him.

Everybody is wondering where Melo will sign this summer. What has your pal and business partner told you about his free-agency thoughts?

Well, he hasn’t. And I tell him, “Don’t say nothing.” When we’re together, we talk about different things.

You told him not to tell you? You don’t want to be one of the few people on earth who knows Melo’s thought process?

Naw, because I’m gonna tell him to stay in New York! [Laughs] I want him to stay in New York, right here. But I don’t know -- I mean, L.A. is nice.

As a Knicks fan, I’m sure you want him to stay put, but as his business partner, would you be OK with the Lakers?

L.A. is definitely a nice spot. And Kobe will be back. I actually just saw him at the Knicks game and I hung out with Kobe after, and Meryl Streep.

Yeah, I want to ask you about your photo with Meryl Streep. What’s the story behind what might be the greatest and strangest photo ever?

Oh, ain’t nobody gonna top my photo. When I put it on my Instagram, I told them, see if you can beat this. [Laughs] It was interesting. We just ended up in the same place. It was actually Meryl’s first game. We came into this lounge area, where you hang out before the game, and they serve food and drinks, and then you watch the game. We sat down and talked and enjoyed it. I wanted to talk to Kobe during the game. We made eye contact, and he was like, when it’s done, come around and we’ll talk. As soon as the game was over, Kobe had some guys escort us to the back so we can actually speak to him. We took regular pictures first, and then I started playin’ around. I was like, “Hold up, we gotta get a lil gangsta back here, now.” But I only put up one photo.

I’m dying to know what you, Kobe and Meryl talked about.

We was talkin’ for a bit. We talked about [Streep’s film] “August: Osage County.” I told her, “You’re gonna win another award because you scared the s--- out of me in that movie!” [Laughs] She started laughing at me. I was like, “What the f---, man?! I ain’t gonna lie to you, Meryl, you kinda scared me with all that s--- in that movie!”

You wear a lot of hats, but let’s say you can have any job in sports, any job at all. What would you do?

Oh man, I don’t know. GM of the Knicks? Naw, I never see the general manager of the Knicks. I’m not sure that’s the right job. [Laughs] I’d have to be one of his athletes, if it’s a dream. And I’d be the MVP. [Laughs] Ya know, that victory moment, I wrote a song about it. It’s called “Winner’s Circle,” and it’s on the “Animal Ambition” project. That’s what the project is about. It’s about women, jealousy, people having that sense of entitlement, all these different things that surround us, and I think the victory moment where everything is going right, when you’re disciplined and you’ve put yourself through all of it, and then you get there -- it’s overwhelming to the point where grown men cry.

So in your dream scenario, next year Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson will be playing alongside Melo and you’ll both be crying in the winner’s circle in New York?

Or L.A.! If we get Kobe back, we gotta go to L.A., then, baby. Hold up, now, we do want to win some! It’s not all about the money. Players, they make interesting moves for that ring, because they’ve dreamed of it for so long. How long are they out there working for that ring? It’s definitely not all about the money.

Gretchen Wilson featured during the Chase

September, 16, 2013
WilsonPeter Kramer/Getty ImagesGretchen Wilson is releasing three albums this year, "Right On Time," "Under The Covers" and a Christmas album.
Gretchen Wilson is a Grammy-winning country artist with multiple No. 1 albums and her own record company. She has also been a big racing fan since she was a kid, when she would watch her father run on dirt tracks around St. Louis.

"He would let me clean the mud out of the wheel wells with a 2x4, and I thought I was part of the pit crew," she recalled.

During this year's NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, Wilson's music and love of racing are coming together as part of ESPN's coverage of the 10 races that will determine the Sprint Cup Series champion. She is introducing the telecasts of all 10 races, and ESPN's telecasts will feature music from her two new albums, "Right On Time" and "Under The Covers," as well as the hits that launched her career.

"Many of the fans who show up at our concerts on Saturday nights are watching the races on Sundays," said Wilson, who has performed the national anthem at several NASCAR races during her singing career. "I'm honored to be a part of this great American tradition and look forward to seeing the fans at some races this fall."

"This has already been an exciting season and I think it's about to get crazy."

Here's a list of Wilson's songs that will be featured on ESPN’s NASCAR Sprint Cup programming, as well as links to download and buy her songs and/or albums:

"Here For The Party" from the "Here For The Party" album. (iTunes | Amazon)

"All Jacked Up," from the “All Jacked Up” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

"I Got Your Country Right Here," "Work Hard Play Harder" and "Back Where I Come From" from the “I Got Your Country Right Here” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

“Get Outta My Yard" and “Still Rollin’" from the “Right On Time” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

“Stay With Me," “Doctor My Eyes," “Everybody Wants You," “Hot Blooded," “I Want You To Want Me" and “Bad Company" from the “Under The Covers” album.
(iTunes | Amazon)

“Middle of the Road" and “Hold The Line" not available for sale.

Green Day, Maroon 5 on NASCAR shows

April, 16, 2013
Here are a list of songs from performers featured on ESPN’s NASCAR programming, links to the artists' websites, and links for you to download and buy the songs and/or albums:

Music for NASCAR programming

Green Day

"99 Revolutions" from the “Tre” album
(iTunes | Amazon)

John Fogerty

"Almost Saturday Night" (with Keith Urban) from the “Wrote A Song For Everyone” album (iTunes | Amazon)

John Fogerty

"Bad Moon Rising" (with Zac Brown Band) from the “Wrote A Song For Everyone” album (iTunes | Amazon)

John Fogerty

"Fortunate Son" (with Foo Fighters) from the “Wrote A Song For Everyone” album (iTunes | Amazon)

John Fogerty

"Born on the Bayou" (with Kid Rock) from the “Wrote A Song For Everyone” album (iTunes | Amazon)

John Fogerty

"Hot Rod Heart" (with Brad Paisley) from the “Wrote A Song For Everyone” album (iTunes | Amazon)

John Fogerty

"Who’ll Stop the Rain" (with Bob Seger) from the “Wrote A Song For Everyone” album (iTunes | Amazon)

John Fogerty

"Mystic Highway" from the “Wrote A Song For Everyone” album (iTunes | Amazon)

Blue Sky Riders

"I’m A Rider" from the “Finally Home” album (iTunes | Amazon)

Imagine Dragons

"Round and Round" from the “Night Visions” album (iTunes | Amazon)

Maroon 5

"Lucky Strike" from the “Overexposed” album (iTunes | Amazon)

Tim McGraw

"It’s Your World" from the “Two Lanes Of Freedom” album (iTunes | Amazon)

Tim McGraw

"One Of Those Nights" from the “Two Lanes Of Freedom” album (iTunes | Amazon)

Lifehouse, Paramore in NASCAR shows

February, 25, 2013
Here's a list of songs from performers featured on ESPN’s NASCAR programming, links to the artist’s websites and links for you to download and buy the songs and/or albums:

Music for NASCAR Programming


"Moveonday" from the “Almeria” album
(iTunes | Amazon)


"Right Back Home" from the “Almeria” album
(iTunes | Amazon)


"Now" from the “Paramore” album
(iTunes | Amazon)


"Bring It" from the “Reborn” album
(iTunes | Amazon)

Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown

"Still Young (Hey Kids)" from the “Wild Child” album
(iTunes | Amazon)

Boys Like Girls

"Life of the Party" from the “Crazy World” album
(iTunes | Amazon)

Charm City Devils

"Unstoppable" from the “Sins” album
(iTunes | Amazon)

Dropkick Murphys

"The Boys Are Back" from the “Signed and Sealed in Blood” album (iTunes | Amazon)

Florida Georgia Line

"Round Here" from the “Here’s to the Good Times” album (iTunes | Amazon)


"All or Nothing" from the “All or Nothing” album (iTunes | Amazon)

Goo Goo Dolls

"Rebel Beat" from the “Magnetic” album (iTunes | Amazon)

Great Wolf

"Time To Go" not available for sale

Jimmie Johnson talks Dylan shoot, playlist

February, 13, 2013
video For ESPN The Magazine's Feb. 18 Music Issue, we persuaded 14 athletes to re-create some of the most memorable album covers. As part of our supplemental coverage on Playbook Sounds, we will be running behind-the-scenes interviews with each athlete, as well as their own personal playlists.

• Athlete: Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR driver
• As: Bob Dylan on "The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan" (1963)

What was the selection process like?

Jimmie: I said to my wife, Chani, give me five iconic covers that you think I could re-create. Chani and I kicked around some ideas. From there we tried to see who I looked the most like and where we could go with that. We saw the "The Freewheelin'" cover and there was a woman in the photo, and I thought, that would be something fun we could do together.

What were some of your ideas?

Chani: There was another Bob Dylan cover. I thought about [The Beatles'] "Abbey Road" with the four Hendrick drivers. That would've been cool.

Jimmie: We saw "Freewheelin' " early on, and it just seemed to trump the others. I thought I could look close to Dylan, and I had a tie to New York and the West Village, so it just pulled us into this one.

(Read full post)

Kid Rock's songs for NASCAR shows

September, 15, 2012
Kid RockGeoff Burke/Getty ImagesStarting this weekend, Kid Rock will have a selection of songs on ESPN's NASCAR coverage.
Kid Rock will lend both his presence and his music to ESPN’s telecasts of the 10 races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which begins with this Sunday’s event at Chicagoland Speedway. ESPN’s coverage from Chicagoland begins at 1 p.m. ET with "NASCAR Countdown."

Here's a list of songs from KID ROCK featured on ESPN’s NASCAR Programming and links for you to download and buy the songs and/or albums:



  • "So hot"
  • "Bawitdaba"
  • "Born Free"
  • "Cowboy"
  • "God Bless Saturday"
  • "Rock N Roll Jesus"
  • "Roll On"
  • "Rebel Soul"
  • "Let’s Ride (Mideast Battle Hymn)"
  • "Celebrate"
  • "The Mirror"

  • All the songs are not available for individual sale.



  • "Everybody Talks" from the "Picture Show” album (iTunes | Amazon)

  • "Pontoon" from the "Tornado” album (iTunes | Amazon)

  • "Unstoppable" from the "Eye On It” album (Amazon)

Kid Rock amps ESPN's NASCAR coverage

September, 13, 2012
Kid Rock will lend both his presence and his music to ESPN’s telecasts of the 10 races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which begins with this Sunday’s event at Chicagoland Speedway. ESPN’s coverage from Chicagoland begins at 1 p.m. ET with "NASCAR Countdown."

[+] EnlargeKid Rock
Getty ImagesNASCAR fan Kid Rock will narrate and appear in the opening teases of the ESPN telecasts.
Kid Rock, who has been a fan of NASCAR for more than a decade, will appear in the opening teases of the telecasts of the 10 races, with each tease tailored to the racetrack hosting that week’s event. Kid Rock’s music will be featured throughout the campaign, including sneak peeks at his yet-to-be-titled new album and hits from his catalogue.

“Kid Rock brings rock stardom to a sport that has its own rock stars,” said Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president of motorsports production. “His music appeals to a cross-section of America and is a perfect fit for our NASCAR coverage.”

Kid Rock’s past music has touched a wide variety of styles, including hard rock, rap and country, and he has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide. A five-time Grammy Award nominee, his past awards include the 1999 Billboard Music Awards “Best New Artist” and the 2001 and 2003 American Music Awards “Favorite Male Pop/Rock Artist.”

Kid Rock’s connection with NASCAR dates to 2002, when the Michigan native narrated the documentary “Tony Stewart: Smoke.” He has been grand marshal for two NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Michigan International Speedway and performed at last year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup awards ceremony in Las Vegas, where his friend Stewart was honored as champion. He has attended many other NASCAR events as a fan.

Harwell of Smash Mouth on NASCAR, CD

August, 31, 2012
Steve HarwellMike McGinnis/Getty ImagesSmash Mouth, with lead singer Steve Harwell, will release a new CD on Tuesday.
Smash Mouth lead singer Steve Harwell has that swagger back, just like his buddies in NASCAR.

It's been six years since Harwell and his bandmates -- known for their hits "Walkin' On the Sun" and "All Star" -- have released new music.

On Tuesday, Smash Mouth will release "Magic" for its new label of 429 Records.

"It was a magical experience we haven't felt in years recording this album," said the 45-year-old Harwell, who formed the band in 1994. "We want to get on stage and prove to you that we're back."

The band has gone through several lineup changes and now have settled on original members Harwell, Paul Delisle (bass) and Mike Klooster (keyboards). Joining the roster are Randy Cooke (drums) and Mike Krompass (guitar).

"I always compare our music to a race car team," said the NASCAR fan Harwell, whose band has sold more than 10 million albums. "I told the band, 'You build the right car and I'll drive it.'"

And that right car means moving out some people -- Greg Camp and Mark Cervantes -- and bringing in fresh blood.

"If it's not working, like in sports, you make some trades. It doesn't mean the team won't win championships," Harwell said. "I think we were just growing apart. But now the fire is burning again. We're raw and hungry. That's why the CD is called 'Magic.'"

Playbook had a few minutes to talk with Harwell about his new music and his deep love of NASCAR.

I know you love NASCAR. How did that begin?

"If I wasn't doing music, I would have been racing today. Well, actually, if my dad had backed me up, I would have gotten more serious about it. But he had five kids to support. I grew up building cars, bikes and hot rods. I'm even thinking about buying a late-model car these days. That's my passion. That's my therapy. I understand the technicality to what it takes to compete. I'm one of those fans who would spend a thousand bucks to bring the family out and camp out."

(Read full post)

Sounds of Greg Biffle's win in Michigan

August, 20, 2012
There's nothing in sports that rivals the noise heard at a NASCAR race -- it's the only sport, after all, that suggests fans wear ear-plugs while in the stands.

You can't really understand the level of noise until you're actually there in person. But this video comes pretty close.

This NASCAR Soundtracks video provides an aural look at Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 in Brooklyn, Mich., in which Greg Biffle held off Brad Keselowski for the victory. The video features it all: a blown cylinder, a crash into a barrier, plenty of radio chatter and Biffle crossing the finish line to the delight of his crew chief.

Sounds of a NASCAR road course

August, 14, 2012
Marcos AmbroseTodd Warshaw/Getty Images/NASCARMarcos Ambrose has won the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen in each of the last two seasons.
It’s hard for some of NASCAR’s drivers to describe the way a road course sounds. But they can tell you for sure it isn’t the same as your common oval course.

“In a place like Michigan, you leave pit lane, and you get up to top gear and you’re holding these big RPMs the whole way around,” says Marcos Ambrose, a two-time winner of the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen, a road course, including this past Sunday's Finger Lakes 355. "The engine runs at 9200 to 9600 RPMs, and it’s just a constant drone. If you lift off the gas, it sounds like a deflating balloon. You can’t get the speed back.”

There is only one straightaway at Watkins Glen, an 11-turn course in New York, that might be long enough for the cars to rev that high in fourth gear. Otherwise, drivers rely more on car handling and gearshifts than sheer speed. While a driver might fear not having enough top-end speed on an oval, on a road course the worry is entering a turn without enough power.

Ambrose, who won the pole in June at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 (the only other road course of the season) in Sonoma, Calif., says road racing is totally different from oval racing -- which could be why some drivers seem to just cross their fingers and hope they don’t get lapped.

(Read full post)

Overcoming noise at NASCAR races

July, 5, 2012
Think of how your coffee maker sounds at the end of the brewing cycle, when the last of the water is suctioned into the filter. Then turn it up, Spinal Tap-style, past 11. That’s NASCAR. And that’s why, with 850-horsepower engines creating 140 decibels at an idle, the first thing you receive at a race, including the one at Daytona International Speedway this weekend, is a pair of earplugs.

[+] EnlargeJeff Gordon
Todd Warshaw/NASCAR/Getty ImagesBecause NASCAR races are so noisy, race teams use hand signals to communicate during pit stops.
Jeff Gordon says “loud engines and roaring fans” are the first things that come to mind when people talk about NASCAR, but cutting through the noise can be the difference between a clean, fast pit stop and a botched one. It’s so loud trackside that most pit crews use hand signals, like college basketball point guards, to let each other know what needs to be done. Because with many four-hour races decided by less than a car length, every quarter-second counts.

Inside the vehicle, drivers like Denny Hamlin listen to the high-pitched whirr of the compressed-air powered wrench on the fifth and last lug nut of the front driver’s side wheel as the cue to get moving. It’s a similar sound to your dentist’s drill -- only loud enough to jolt an artilleryman.

(Read full post)

Vanilla Ice-logano Jerome Miron-US PresswireSuddenly, Vanilla Ice is everywhere again, including the Pocono winner's circle with Joey Logano.
Vanilla Ice had a meteoric rise, selling more than 13 million copies of his debut album, "To The Extreme."

He faced an equally potent backlash, falling out of favor and recasting himself as a rap-metal artist and a reality TV star alongside other fallen idols on "The Surreal Life."

With a starring role in the new Adam Sandler movie "That's My Boy," Ice has come full circle as "Uncle Vanny," who cruises around in an old-school Mustang 5.0 convertible.

And Rob Van Winkle, as he now prefers to be called, has emerged from the shadow of the Iceman. The post-hype anger has subsided, and instead a friendly, cheerfully corny entertainer is grinding out interviews for the movie and his home-renovation show "The Vanilla Ice Project" on DIY Network.

"I'm a random guy. I shake a hand and make a friend. I don't do egotistical things," Van Winkle says. "I meet everybody. If somebody invites me to their house and they got a drum set close, I'm going to play, man. Let's jam. I don’t care. Get in where you fit in and enjoy the experience."

Decidedly low-maintenance, the man who once cooked MCs like a pound of bacon left ESPN and headed over to the nearby Chili's for some veggie fajitas.

(Read full post)

5 heroes vie for naming of NASCAR race

May, 30, 2012
The Band PerryMichael Hickey/Getty ImagesNeil Perry, Kimberly Perry and Reid Perry of The Band Perry visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Five unsung heroes who make a difference in their communities have been chosen as finalists to have a NASCAR race named after them. The race weekend of July 29, officially titled Crown Royal Presents the “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 at the Brickyard Powered by, will feature country music stars The Band Perry, Justin Moore, The Mavericks and Greg Bates.

This race will mark the sixth time Crown Royal has awarded race naming rights to a fan. This year, the program focused on the unsung heroes, from firefighters and police officers, to first responders and local volunteers. Fans are asked to visit the Crown Royal Facebook page to cast their vote for the person they feel most deserving of the honor.

The five finalists are: Dale Beatty, veteran and cofounder of the nonprofit organization Purple Heart Homes from Statesville, N.C.; Lindsey Marquez, ICU nurse from Sun Prairie, Wis.; Curtiss Shaver, Fire Lieutenant and EMT from Troy, Ala.; John Thomas, Deputy Sheriff from Sarasota, Fla.; and Brandon Veatch, veteran and Purple Heart recipient from Bloomfield, Ind.
Martina McBrideMike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesMartina McBride performs her tried and tested rendition of the national anthem at Daytona last year.
Martina McBride knows her way around the national anthem.

She's a go-to performer before big sporting events, including the 2009 AFC Championship Game, and last year's Daytona 500. She said her dream is to eventually sing it at the Super Bowl.

All eyes will be on her again Sunday before the Indianapolis 500, where organizers said they wanted someone who would sing a traditional version.

McBride said that's her calling card.

"For me it's about honoring our country and our servicemen and women. It's not really about making it my own," she said. "It's not my song. It belongs to all of us. I try to sing it in a way that honors that, and that people can sing along with."

Another of her secrets: She keeps the words visible when she's singing, telling CMT "It's just too big of a thing to take a chance."

McBride, who released her 11th album, "Eleven," late last year, has long been a friend of NASCAR, even earning a legendary story on the circuit. After she sang the national anthem before Talladega in 2000, Dale Earnhardt Sr. asked for her autograph, and said he kept it in his car as he won the race.

"That is true," she said. "He said it was his good-luck charm. That was really sweet."

She has even been given a ride around the track, not that she's that excited about doing it again. Ever.

"It's terrifying. I don't know how they do it," she said. "It's amazing to me that they can do that. It's not something I would want to do every day. It's exhilarating. But it's just very terrifying at the same time."