Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A First for a Longtime NASCAR Fan; Country Music Singer Bryan among Celebrities in Daytona 500 Festivities

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A First for a Longtime NASCAR Fan; Country Music Singer Bryan among Celebrities in Daytona 500 Festivities

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits

DAYTONA BEACH | Luke Bryan keeps alive the strong links between country music and NASCAR with his numerous appearances at races and his friendships with several drivers.

That's why it's hard to believe Sunday was the first time he had attended the Daytona 500.

"Growing up as a huge NASCAR fan, that was what we did, watch races on Sunday," said Bryan, who has six No. 1 songs since 2011. "My dad was a crazy Cale Yarborough fan. I've been a part of so many races through the years, but this is my first Daytona 500. I'm super excited about being here."

Bryan performed the prerace concert. In a news conference before he took the stage, he declined to pick a winner, mainly because he has so many friends among drivers.

Bryan has worked on promotional appearances and charity functions with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, and estimated that he personally knows 10 to 15 drivers.

Keselowski once ran a race with Bryan's picture on the side of the car. Bryan also rode in the pace car at the Michigan International Speedway last year.

During one of the pace laps, Bryan felt a jolt from the rear.

It was pole-sitter Joey Logano, playfully nudging the back bumper.

"He gave me a couple love taps. ... That was kind of nerve-racking," Bryan said. "When you look in your rearview mirror and Logano is staring you down, tearing your bumper off, it's pretty scary. It was fun."

Bryan said he knows enough NASCAR to know what it takes behind the scenes to win a race. He likened it to the road crews that work at staging his concerts.

"I'm only as good as all the people around me, and so are drivers," Bryan said. "I have 60 guys that work for me out on the road and make me who I am. Without those guys, it doesn't happen. As a NASCAR driver, in probably the most competitive environment on earth, you have to have a strong team around you. …

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