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At Bristol, driver intros have added meaning

March 15, 2014, Kenny Bruce,

Song selections as much a part of track as the racing

RELATED: Sunday's race lineup

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Do you remember? If you close you eyes, blot out the noise and listen, can you still hear it?

The unmistakable guitar riff bouncing off the surrounding grandstands as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joe Nemechek made his way to the microphone.

"Life in the Fast Lane" started it all.

It was an appropriate beginning for what has since become a staple at one of NASCAR's most popular venues.

• • •

NASCAR's two annual stops at Bristol Motor Speedway are among the most anticipated events each racing season.

Driver introductions during pre-race activities have become nearly as big of a deal for fans as the racing itself.

Normally a parade of grip-and-grin photo opportunities, officials at BMS have used those final few moments before the green flag to create a unique twist for fans and drivers.

Since the August night race of 2009, driver intros here have commenced with drivers walking out of a makeshift tunnel in Turn 3 while music most have personally chosen provided the backdrop.

"This year it was pretty easy," Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards said Saturday at Bristol. "Vince Neil (Motley Crue) has been hanging out with us a little bit, so we picked one of his songs. It was a big deal for him, so that was easy."

Edwards, who will start 12th in Sunday’s Food City 500, will enter to "Kickstart My Heart."

Neil attended the Sprint Cup race in Las Vegas recently and spent time with Edwards and the No. 99 RFR team.

• • •

The choices are as varied as the looks of the cars on the track. Although rock often dominates the selections, rap, country and pop songs are also chosen by many of the drivers. Some have even leaned on scores from well-known movies -- Kurt Busch entered to the theme from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" during last year’s spring race. Clint Bowyer had chosen the same piece for his entrance two years earlier.

Others look elsewhere for their music -- for the spring race of 2012, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Joey Logano entered to the familiar strains of the ESPN "SportsCenter" theme; the year before, Dave Blaney chose the Ohio State fight song.

"It is hard," Edwards said. "I think a lot of people struggle with the decision because it's a personal thing and you know that everyone is going to judge you on which song you pick."

• • •

Of course, the songs are just part of the allure for fans. Not only do they not know which songs have been chosen until the drivers walk out, they also don't know what else might occur.

Denny Hamlin has used the opportunity to spice up his driver intro, most notably in 2012 when he broke into dance while Cali Swag District's "Teach Me How To Dougie" blared over the speakers, and again last year when he paused long enough to do the Wobble to Bad Meets Evil's "Fast Lane."

Few have forgotten Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski using the opportunity to announce that "Kyle Busch is an ass" in 2010.

But mostly, it's about the music.

"It's funny how seriously some of the drivers take picking the right song," said Lori Worley of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, and a former BMS employee. "Some would change their selections three or four times, some even leading up to race day.

"There are quite a few who would not only tell you the song but that they wanted specific sections of the song played. It wasn't unusual to have somebody tell you the song that to start at the '28.5-second mark and run until the 48-second mark, and make sure you get the chorus in.' "

• • •

"Still the best one to this day I think was when (Brian) Vickers and Jimmie (Johnson) picked each other's songs," Edwards said. "I think it would be more fun if we all got to pick the other guys' songs. But I'm sure that would get mean at some point."

For the spring race of 2011, Vickers and Johnson decided to choose each other's intro song. Vickers selected "Thong Song" by Sisqo for Johnson.

Johnson had already hatched his own plan, selecting Shania Twain's “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!" for Vickers.

• • •

Parker Kligerman, driver of the No. 30 Swan Energy Toyota, will make his first Cup start at Bristol on Sunday. Although he said he was aware of the need to select a song, a difficult start to the season -- made even more difficult when he was involved in an early crash during practice here on Friday -- left him concerned about more important matters.

"I totally forgot," Kligerman said Saturday. "I thought about it (initially) and then forgot.

"You know what we were focused on? Because of how disastrous our first three races were, we had fallen to 43rd in points. So we had to qualify on time or however it worked, but we were worried about that. I just never even thought anymore about the introductions."

Kligerman was involved in a crash with Danica Patrick after only three laps on Friday. He will start 41st Sunday, making the 43-car field based on owner points.

Swan Racing, which includes Kligerman's teammate Cole Whitt, has partnered with rap artist 50 Cent for 2014, but Kligerman said that had little bearing on his selection. He was already a fan of the popular rapper.

The driver said his song choice, "Don't Push Me," is "just amazing."

"Because first of all," Kligerman added, "it's Bristol and you don't want to get pushed around. And in the first 10 seconds, the part we're using, he says' I need you to pray for me, I need you to want me to win.' It's awesome.

"I might just use it every time until we win."


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