By Joe Dunn
It was a weekend for the fans as the stars of Country Music joined together with the stars of NASCAR. From top recording artist Josh Turner, Danielle Peck, Jason Michael Carroll and Bucky Covington, to NASCAR stars Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr, it was a wide open time for the fans while supporting some very deserving causes, the Victory Junction Camp and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Friday night kicked off the event with two back to back concerts at the Ryman Auditorium. A host of country stars performed for the fans while NASCAR hot dogs like Michael Waltrip as the host and MC ran around snapping cell phone pics to post on his twitter page, and Kyle Petty made his Grand Ole Opry debut as a singer-songwriter. The big hit for the evening was of course Hank Williams Jr.
Saturday kicked off the fan involvement at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium where NASCAR show cars were parked around the perimeter inside the auditorium, and displays by NASCAR, Sprint, Sun Trust Bank and the Nashville SuperSpeedway filled the main floor. Autograph stations were spread along the upper level offering fans a chance to get up close and personal with the stars.
The event contained a constant stream for the fans attending where they had an opportunity to address the stars of both fields in a rare opportunity of question and answer sessions. The Stars, and the soon to be stars worked a rotating schedule between autograph sessions, media sessions and the fan question and answer sessions. Souvenirs were a plenty and the event included a huge silent auction, that occupied space both inside and outside the arena.
Some quotes from drivers included:
Aric Almirola – “I went into Homestead having no idea what I was going to do next year. Over the winter months was pleased to find out that I’m going to run the ’09 Cup car and still be able to drive Billy’s truck. I’m looking forward to it.” .. “I talked with James about it. I mean, his plan is to go full-time”
Michael Waltrip – Regarding the talk of eliminating the yellow line at Talladega “That would be a mistake. “ … “We’ve proven we’re perfectly capable of wiping each other out with the yellow line. Taking it away, what are we trying to accomplish?” …”But I do have a good idea. A point a lap for the leader at Talladega and Daytona.” … “At Talladega we wreck ’em at the end now because we just wait around. So if we had a point a lap, we could wreck some early, some in the middle, and some late, too.”
Mike Bliss – Regarding Danica Patrick in the NASCAR Nationwide Series “ I think Danica is going to steal a lot of the thunder from all of us drivers till her first or second race. There’s a lot of emphasis on her. She’s somebody that everybody is going to be watching at Daytona. Thank God it’s her. The camera is going to be on her. A lot of pressure. “
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Regarding talk of removing the rear wing “I don’t know what that wing’s really doing back there, what the spoiler would be like on this car. We’ve never really tested it so… I don’t really know what it would do to the racing. I don’t think it would change too much.”
Carl Edwards – On the Yellow line rule – “What we told NASCAR, I think what we all kind of told them from Roush Fenway’s driver side is the yellow line deal is good, but I personally like, and I think my teammates like, when you can see the checkered flag, anything goes. That’s kind of fun. We’re already wrecking every time. We might as well get to shoot for the grass, go for it.”
Tony Stewart – On the elimination of the bump drafting rule “Before I think it was a bigger issue than now. The nice thing with flat bumpers, we’re not picking each other up when you’re pushing each other. That seems to be less dramatic than it used to be. When we had cars that had slanted noses on them, you could get underneath them, physically pick up the back of their car, wreck ’em. “
The event culminated with a private party for the stars, called the Groove, which has been and was scheduled to be held at the famous Wild Horse Saloon, but due to a water main break overnight, had to be relocated to the municipal auditorium. Good news for folks like myself, the traditional Red Carpet event kept us indoors for the photo shoots, rather than outdoors in the 20 degree cold