OFFSTAGE: Heat Fuels Martina McBride’s Indy 500 Anthem

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

Good thing it was 91 degrees in Indianapolis on Sunday (May 27). Because before she sang the national anthem for the Indianapolis 500, Martina McBride told me the sweltering temps were just right for her. “Heat is actually good for my voice,” she said. “I’ve done the anthem so many times — at NASCAR races, baseball games, the World Series, football games, hockey games — and so many have been in such extreme weather. In Pittsburgh, once it was three degrees when I did it. So this is no problem.”

I was there at the race to hear McBride’s anthem, right after Florence Henderson did “God Bless America” and right before Bishop Christopher Coyne called upon God with a moving invocation. And McBride was right about the heat. Her national anthem was the nicest-sounding two minutes of the day, and the hush of the crowd of more than 250,000 race fans while she sang made it that much more remarkable, from the “oh, say, can you see” to the “home of the brave.” She was dressed in skinny jeans and a white tunic top, and her hair was in a side ponytail. McBride was, by far, the biggest and truest country star to do the anthem at the Indy 500 so far. And the country fan in me thinks maybe the Nashville-powered salute had something to do with the win. Dario Franchitti, who is Scottish but lives right outside Nashville with his wife Ashley Judd, won the race for the third time. And in another little twist of coincidence, he was sponsored in part by McBride’s record label, the Big Machine Label Group, which had sponsored the late Dan Wheldon’s winning car at last year’s Indy 500.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.