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Waltrip the driving force

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          NASCAR NEWS - Thursday, January 3, 2008

Waltrip the driving force of annual Sound & Speed gala
By Joe Menzer, NASCAR.COM

Darrell Waltrip always speaks his mind. If he could carry 
a tune at all, he no doubt would sing his mind, too. 

And he says that NASCAR has gotten away from its roots some-
what by tailoring to a new crowd when it comes to the music 
that often is used to help promote the sport. That's one 
reason he's so excited about the 2008 Sprint Sound & Speed 
presented by SunTrust festival, to be held in Nashville, 
Tenn., on Jan. 12. 

"Quite honestly, NASCAR has really in my view kind of gone 
in the wrong direction with their choice of artists and 
music that they use at some of the races," Waltrip said. 
"I think country music is more appropriate for what we do. 
So this is kind of a nice marriage of traditional old stuff 
that we've always done -- country music, racecars, drivers."

Among the drivers and racing celebrities signed up to 
attend this year's third annual event are Dale Earnhardt 
Jr., Juan Montoya, Richard Petty, Kyle Petty, Richard 
Childress, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, 
Dave Blaney, Scott Wimmer, David Stremme, Waltrip and 
his younger brother, Michael.

They are scheduled to participate in the Backstage Garage 
Pass festivities at Nashville's Sommet Center, where fans 
are promised to be able to "get up-close and personal" with 
racing and country-music celebrities for "autographs, story-
telling and question-and-answer sessions" from 9 a.m. to 
5 p.m. Among the country-music artists scheduled to 
participate in the Backstage Garage Pass events are Josh 
Turner, Diamond Rio, Danielle Peck and Bucky Covington. 

There will be a limit of 200 fans permitted access to each 
driver/country artist. 

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The day-long Backstage Garage Pass festivities will be 
followed by an 8 p.m. concert, also at the Sommet Center, 
headlined by country-music star Alan Jackson and special 
guests Taylor Swift and Jason Michael Carroll. Tickets are 
available through TicketMaster ($39.50 for the concert, 
$20 for the Backstage Garage Pass, or $54.50 for both 

Jackson is a superstar in the country-music industry, 
having sold more than 49 million albums. He also is an 
unabashed NASCAR fan and avid car collector with a garage 
full of classic cars, including his first set of wheels 
-- a 1977 Thunderbird. 

All proceeds from Sound & Speed will go to the Victory 
Junction Gang Campexternal link and the Country Music 
Hall of Fame and Museum. The first two years of the event, 
attended by an estimated total of some 25,000 fans, raised 
more than $500,000. 

"It's a really neat event," Waltrip said. "The first year 
was really chaotic, because we had never done it before. 
Last year was better -- much better organized. And this 
year is going to be the best yet. Every year it's gotten 

There also will be a private auction of racing and country-
music memorabilia at Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville 
on Friday night, Jan. 11. Last year Michael Waltrip served 
as impromptu auctioneer along with NASCAR president Mike 
Helton -- and Michael said he will serve again this year 
if spontaneously elected to do so. 

"I've done that in the past, when asked, and I like doing 
it," Michael said. "But I also like to sit there and watch. 
Whatever I need to do to make the event fun and entertain-
ing for the kind folks that show up to buy items up for 
bid, that's sort of my goal, just to help out." 


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Of last year's Michael and Mike auctioneering show, Darrell 
laughed and added: "They cracked the joint up. You know my 
brother. He can make a fool of himself real easy." 

Michael Waltrip added that it is never hard for his big 
brother to talk him into helping out at Sound & Speed. 

"Nashville, Tenn., is one of my favorite cities in the whole 
country," Michael said. "To get the chance to go over to 
Nashville and for it to be for such a great cause, Sound & 
Speed is just something I won't miss. 

"I'm just a huge country-music fan. So getting to hang out 
with some of the stars of that world, and to always have 
some time with my brother and his family, it's just great. 
Whenever you see me at Sound & Speed, just know I'm happy. 

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"To me, it's sort of like vacation. It's like getting to 
take a little bit of time to have some fun. That time of 
year is just prior to things ramping way up in our world, 
and it's nice to take a little break and enjoy a little 
time off -- and that's what I look forward to doing." 

In the end, it's all for a couple of good causes, Darrell 
added. And he said that he's certain NASCAR fans of all 
ages will enjoy the mix of sound and speed. 

"I think of it sort of like the old preview that we used 
to do in Winston-Salem [N.C.]," Waltrip said. "It's got a 
little bit of that going on. It's also got a little bit 
of Fan Fare going on, if you're familiar with Fan Fare in 
Nashville where all the country-music folks come in and 
the fans visit with different artists and they set up 
booths and do all that kind of thing. So it's got all that 
going on. It's a marrying of music and cars -- country 
music and racecars. 

"There are a lot of people who are anxious for Daytona to 
get here. This is sort of the first event of the new year." 

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