There’s lots of talk about big data in the news right now, so maybe that’s why we’ve decided to continue our futile exercise of analyzing some data of our own: each NASCAR racer’s song selections for Bristol Motor Speedway driver introductions.
If you’re not already familiar with the nearly decade-old tradition (and one of the finest traditions, in our opinion), Bristol handles driver introductions a little differently than most tracks. Each of the competitors walks into the half-mile colosseum with the introduction music of their choice blaring through the track’s sound system. It’s an intriguing look into each driver’s personality and creativity, expressed through music.
Shake it off, @mattdracing!
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 21, 2016
For instance, here’s a video of introductions at Bristol from a few years ago:
With two races at Bristol each year and 40 drivers racing at a time, the data’s started to pile up since 2009 when the introduction music tradition started. So, from AC/DC to Zay Hilfigerrr & Zayion McCall, here are some of our findings, based on data through last summer’s Bristol Night Race.
Most Popular Songs
Last time we pored over the data, it was obvious AC/DC’s Thunderstruck was far and away the most popular driver introduction song, chosen 10 times since 2009. That stat hasn’t changed.
However, Motley Crue’s Kickstart My Heart has elevated to the second most popular song, thanks to BJ McLeod’s selection last summer. (Hey, it’s a great song to get pumped up.)
McLeod joined an elite list of drivers who’ve picked The Crue’s classic:
- Travis Kvapil, Spring 2010
- Sam Hornish Jr., Summer 2010
- Dennis Setzer, Spring 2011
- Casey Mears, Spring 2012
- Carl Edwards, Spring 2014 (race winner!)
- David Gilliland, Summer 2015
- Jamie McMurray, Summer 2016
Here’s everything ever picked — 544 different songs by our count.
Most Popular Artists
Like their designation of top song, AC/DC is also the most popular artist among drivers — about 3.6 percent of all picks ever, with 26 entrances total.
With 13 entrances, Motley Crue is now the second-most frequent artist, breaking a tie with Kid Rock. Kid Rock’s descent down the most popular artist list in recent years likely has a lot to do with Tony Stewart’s retirement, who walked out to the Bawitdaba star a total of six times before hanging up the helmet in 2016.
In country news, Brooks & Dunn has cracked the artists Top 10, courtesy of Kasey Kahne.
Here’s the full list of all 350 artists, ordered by number of times used. There’s a whole lot of rock and country.
Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth, Paul Menard, and Ryan Newman have started all 17 races where drivers emerge to music.
We’ve still been Nickelback-free since 2011. Casey Mears, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kurt Busch, and Jamie McMurray are the only drivers to have emerged to the band, and only two of them remain active Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Just saying.
Chase Elliott snapped his streak of picking the same artist (Eric Church) each Bristol race in his career when he selected Chevy Don’t Let Me Down by Jeff Bates in last summer’s night race.
However, Ryan Newman’s extended his streak of picking Luke Bryan’s “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day” to three consecutive races. The record-holder for consecutive picks is Jeff Burton, a fan of Guns N’ Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle to the tune of selecting it in five consecutive races (2009-2011). Newman’s the only one on a streak even close right now.
Surprisingly, there are a few notable wildly-popular artists who’ve only been picked once over the years — we were surprised by some of these oft-shunned names:
- Alan Jackson (Ricky Stenhouse Jr, 2017 Night Race)
- Blink-182 (Ryan Truex, 2014 Night Race)
- Chance The Rapper (Ty Dillon, 2017 Spring)
- Dave Matthews Band (Jimmie Johnson, 2012 Spring)
- David Bowie (Greg Biffle, 2014 Night Race)
- Foo Fighters (Brad Keselowski, 2014 Spring)
- Iron Maiden (Paul Menard, 2014 Night Race)
- Linkin Park (AJ Allmendinger, 2017 Night Race)
- Michael Jackson (Reed Sorenson, 2009 Night Race)
- Miranda Lambert (Danica Patrick, 2012 Night Race)
- Taylor Swift (Matt DiBenedetto, 2016 Spring)
Fantasy Racing Tips (using intro songs as a metric)
Last year, we pointed out a particularly interesting phenomenon that may help you set your Fantasy Live lineup for this year — it still rings true in 2018.
When Brad Keselowski picks a song by Kid Rock as his driver introduction song, he wins the race. When he doesn’t pick Kid Rock, he doesn’t win. It’s science. We have conclusive proof.
Keselowski walked out to Kid Rock songs in the 2011 Night Race and the 2012 Spring race — and won both races. He’s never picked a song by Kid Rock for any other Bristol race, and coincidentally, he’s never won another race at Bristol. The stats don’t lie.
So, Fantasy Live players, the takeaway is simple: If you see Driver No. 2 walk onto the stage Sunday and you don’t hear Kid Rock blasting alongside, adjust your lineup.
Speaking of songs race winners have chosen, here’s a comprehensive list of race-winning driver intro songs, dating back to 2009 when this fine tradition started.
- 2009 (Night) Kyle Busch: Kanye West’s “Amazing”
- 2010 (Spring) Jimmie Johnson: Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On”
- 2010 (Night) Kyle Busch: Raytona 500’s “Rowdy Busch”
- 2011 (Spring) Kyle Busch: Raytona 500’s “Rowdy Busch” (two in a row!)
- 2011 (Night) Brad Keselowski: Kid Rock’s “Jackson, Mississippi”
- 2012 (Spring) Brad Keselowski: Kid Rock’s “Born Free”
- 2012 (Night) Denny Hamlin: V.I.C.’s “Wobble”
- 2013 (Spring) Kasey Kahne: Kip Moore’s “Beer Money”
- 2013 (Night) Matt Kenseth: Metallica’s “Seek And Destroy”
- 2014 (Spring) Carl Edwards: Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart”
- 2014 (Night) Joey Logano: Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna”
- 2015 (Spring) Matt Kenseth: Megadeth’s “Symphony of Destruction”
- 2015 (Night) Joey Logano: Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up To Boston”
- 2016 (Spring) Carl Edwards: Bon Jovi’s “Have a Nice Day”
- 2016 (Night) Kevin Harvick: Jake Owen’s “Good Company”
- 2017 (Spring) Jimmie Johnson: Tupac’s “California Love”
- 2017 (Night) Kyle Busch: Imagine Dragons’ “Thunder”
If you’re keeping track at home, this is the list of race-winning artists. Somehow, only two artists have propelled drivers to victory more than once (Raytona 500/Kyle Busch and Kid Rock/Brad Keselowski).
- Raytona 500 (2 wins)
- Kid Rock (2)
- Kanye West (1)
- Led Zeppelin (1)
- V.I.C. (1)
- Kip Moore (1)
- Metallica (1)
- Motley Crue (1)
- Carl Orff (1)
- Megadeth (1)
- Dropkick Murphys (1)
- Bon Jovi (1)
- Jake Owen (1)
- Tupac (1)
- Imagine Dragons (1)
What does the future hold?
As much fun as we’ve had watching drivers get creative, the driver introduction procedure at Bristol in 2018 is a little different. It may just change the way we’ve watched drivers walk out to the track for the past decade.
Effective this year, Bristol Motor Speedway has opted to get fans involved with the driver intro song selection process. Now, instead of drivers selecting their own songs in advance of the race, fans will choose one of three songs that best represents each driver.
What does this mean for the future of our analysis? Has our data been collected in vain all this time, now that drivers can no longer flex their creative muscle? We don’t know the answers yet, but we like the idea of getting fans involved. We’ll keep collecting data and see what happens.
One thing’s for sure, though: there’s no Kid Rock song among Brad Keselowski’s finalist options, so based on trends, he won’t claim his first victory of 2018 Sunday.
Some Quick Figures
- 17 races at Bristol have used driver introduction songs so far, starting in the 2009 night race.
- 714 total musical entrances have been made. (677 selections have been made, but the three drivers DNQed over the years, their intro songs never seeing the light of day.)
- 544 different songs have been used in total.
- 350 different artists or musical acts have been used.
- 109 songs have been used more than once.
- That’s a 20.0 percent song re-usage rate (up from 19.4 percent last year).
Explore some stats for yourself!
Song Selection by Event
Thanks to Sim Racing Design for 2009 (Night) data.
Thanks to Motor Racing Digest for 2013 (Spring) data.
Thanks to Dustin Long/NBC Sports for 2017 (Spring) data.