Country Stars, NASCAR Drivers Unite for Fan Event

Sound and Speed Participants Include Vince Gill, George Jones, Kyle and Richard Petty

The inaugural Sound and Speed event made a pit stop in downtown Nashville on Friday and Saturday (Jan. 13-14), officially uniting big-name country stars and NASCAR’s top drivers for the first time.

Though NASCAR and country music largely share a common fan base, Sound and Speed 2006 raised money for two distinctly different organizations. The drivers endorsed the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a North Carolina property for children with chronic illness. Driver Kyle Petty and wife Pattie founded the camp to honor their son, Adam, who died at age 19 following a racing crash in 2000. Meanwhile, Nashville artists showed up to supplement the operational costs of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

“There’s a hunger in a lot of artists and people who love and revere this kind of music to educate people on where it came from,” said Vince Gill, who served as co-chair of the event with Kyle Petty. “To me, that’s what the Hall of Fame is all about. It stands for our history. I think that as this culture becomes easier to discard, I think it’s more important these days to stand up for what we love.”

Following an all-star private gala at the Wildhorse Saloon the night before, the singers and drivers converged on the Gaylord Entertainment Center on Saturday morning for autographs and photo ops. However, due to logistical issues, fans couldn’t get unlimited meet-and-greets because every line required a different color of wristband. If you had the wrong color — or no wristband at all — then you were out of luck. As a result, with just three autograph sessions scheduled, fans could only get in three lines over the course of the day.

Drivers were paired with musicians. If you wanted to meet Dale Earnhardt Jr., you automatically got to meet LeAnn Rimes, too. But if you hoped to meet back-flipping driver Carl Edwards as well as model Niki Taylor, you couldn’t do it because they were in separate lines. With such limited access to the celebrities, many frustrated fans promptly asked for refunds.

However, there were more activities in the area than just shaking hands with the stars. Richard Petty and George Jones teamed Saturday morning for an insightful Q&A at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. About 20 racecars were parked in the concourse of the Gaylord Entertainment Center so fans could peek inside and admire the 2006 paint schemes. And by the end of the night, a loud, upbeat arena concert featuring Keith Anderson, LeAnn Rimes and Montgomery Gentry soothed most of the sore feelings.

Other country artists taking part in Sound and Speed 2006 activities included Shannon Brown, Elizabeth Cook, Diamond Rio’s Marty Roe and Jimmy Olander, Andy Griggs, Erika Jo, Lila McCann, Jo Dee Messina, Julie Roberts, Ricky Skaggs, Ray Stevens, Darryl Worley, Chely Wright and Trisha Yearwood.

Participating drivers also included Max Angelleli, Greg Biffle, Chad Chaffin, Harry Gant, Jeff Green, Kevin Harvick, Ernie Irvan, Bobby Labonte, Burney Lamar, Sterling Marlin, Jamie McMurray, Wayne Taylor, Darrell Waltrip and Michael Waltrip.