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NASCAR drivers take a turn at the music biz 

Hey now, you're a rockstar?

The Red Hot Chili Peppers may have had the balls to pose au naturale for the cover of Rolling Stone, but do you think they'd have enough nerve to strap into an 850-horsepower stock car and take it three-wide at 200 mph on a super speedway ... for 500 miles?

OK, maybe those guys aren't the best example since, at times, it seems like they'd do most anything. But generally speaking, it'd be hard to imagine John Mayer or Kayne West shifting gears to try and become stars of NASCAR.

Rockstars and race car drivers -- when you think about it, there are lots of things these guys have in common. If you don't think so, then you've never been in the garage area when Kasey Kahne comes whizzing through on a golf cart. It's kinda how you'd imagine a Jonas Brothers concert -- lots of girls screaming and clamoring for a closer look.

In both professions, you have to spend countless hours practicing, leading up to the "big show." You also need to know how to adapt to living on the road. And whereas most rockstars have a record label calling the shots and peddling them to any and all media outlets, race car drivers have their almighty sponsors trying to consume every moment of their time away from the track. Oh yeah, and if either are any good at what they do, it's likely they're getting paid a grotesque amount of money.

Of course, the connection between the fast paced worlds of NASCAR and the music biz isn't really anything new. Drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Elliot Sadler show up in music videos, and there's even a race (at Richmond International Raceway) called the Chevy Rock & Roll 400. But did you know this connection may have started as early as the 1960s when a Grammy-award winning musician and songwriter named Marty Robbins decided to take a spin at a career in NASCAR?

Robbins had nearly 100 songs make the country music charts and more than a dozen make it to number one. The Academy of Country Music even recognized him as "Artist of the Decade" (1960-69). But, in 1966, this country crooner sponsored his own car and entered his first NASCAR Grand National event (now called the Sprint Cup Series). Total, he'd run 35 races, running in his last just one month before his death in 1982. And his career stats were pretty impressive -- he led two races and scored six top-10 finishes, including one fifth place finish.

These days, it seems the tables have turned, however, as more race car drivers are becoming interested in venturing into the music business. Sure, there are plenty of musicians recording promos for NASCAR and most every race at Lowe's Motor Speedway has some sort of pre- or post-race performance included. But did you know there's at least one driver out there who actually started his own record label?

Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot car, launched Back 40 Records early last year. Unfortunately, Edwards couldn't make himself available to CL since he's so busy with his main gig, so it does make us wonder just how committed he is to the artists he's signed. But since he is a heavy contender in the Chase (i.e. the playoffs of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series), we'll cut cousin Carl some slack.

What we can tell you is the Back 40 Records roster is fairly diversified. Currently there are two rappers, two R&B singers and, of course, the staple singer/songwriter signed.

Then there's Kyle Petty, race car driver, TV announcer and son of "The King" (note: in the racing world that'd be Richard Petty, not Elvis). He plays guitar and pens his own children's songs (go to www.qccltv.com and see for yourself). He's actually scheduled to perform at the Dale Jr. Foundation Benefit Concert at Whisky River on Oct. 12 where he'll open for country singer Gary Allan.

So, if you're heading out to the track this weekend to watch either Jeff Gordon or Jessica Simpson (she's performing a pre-race concert in the infield) or possibly both, try to imagine it if those two were ever to trade places. Then again, maybe that could never happen -- I'm picturing Jessica Simpson trying to Google directions to the finish line.

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