Three-time Grammy Award winner Darius Rucker has sung before some pretty big crowds in his career, but none will be as big as the 300,000-plus in-person and millions more worldwide on TV that he’ll serenade on May 29.
The former front man for Hootie & the Blowfish and now a country music solo star will enjoy one of the biggest honors of his career, singing the National Anthem before the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
“I’m honored to sing the national anthem at the Indianapolis 500 and to be invited to celebrate the milestone of the 100th Running,” said Rucker.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials announced Rucker’s appearance Wednesday.
“Darius has a unique set of skills as a musical artist and connects on a personal level with fans across the globe,” IMS president J. Douglas Boles said. “We know he’ll deliver a performance befitting such a monumental day and help ensure this year’s pre-race, my own favorite time of the year, is an unforgettable experience.”
Richie Crampton may have to check himself this weekend. Instead of saying “G’day, Mate,” he’ll have to fall back upon his second language and say, “Howdy, pardner!”
The Adelaide, South Australia native will be deep in the heart of Texas for the 29th NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in the Houston suburb of Baytown, Texas.
Ranked ninth in the NHRA Top Fuel point standings, Crampton enters this weekend’s racing action looking to capitalize on past success both he and teammate Morgan Lucas have both had in the Lone Star State.
“I won in Texas last year (at the Fall Nationals in Dallas) and Morgan won in Houston in 2012, so we have good data in the books to work from,” Crampton said in a media release. “Usually, the Houston race swings very heavily on the weather.
“The track is just a few feet above sea level, so it has the potential to be very fast with all that oxygen available. At the same time, it can be humid and wet, which presents other issues. We have to be ready for whatever we get.”
In many ways, racing in Texas reminds Crampton of his homeland. The Australian Outback looks very similar to the wide open spaces in Texas, the people in both places are friendly and they both love racing.
“It definitely feels a lot like home whenever we go to Texas,” Crampton said. “The weather, the terrain, the people, the food … just the entire attitude is so much like Australia. The first time I ever went there it was one of the first things that struck me.
“When George W. Bush was president, he came to Australia for a visit with Prime Minister John Howard and he said over and over on TV how much Texas and Australia were the same. I know exactly what he meant.
“The fans at this race have always been very kind and welcoming to us, and that’s the Texas friendliness we’ve come to expect. I can’t wait for this year’s race to start.”
Admittedly, it’s been a bit rough this season on Crampton, a seven-time national event winner, and especially his teammate and team owner, Lucas. While Crampton is in the top-10, he’s nearly 200 points behind series leader Brittany Force.
And Lucas, who won last year at the prestigious U.S. Nationals, sits 15th in the rankings, 344 points behind Force.
Still, Crampton is optimistic about this weekend, especially after last weekend’s NHRA 4-Wide Nationals.
“We really got onto something promising this past weekend in Charlotte, and the car responded well to everything Aaron (Brooks, crew chief) was trying to do,” Crampton said. “You don’t make big changes with nitro cars.
“You have to massage what you have, be patient, and take the incremental gains you make. We feel like we’ve taken a bunch of steps forward in the last few races.”
The late race battle between Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud in Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama triggered a lot of words in the immediate aftermath.
Sometimes though, things are best left unsaid – and letting your eyes instead take in all the grace and excitement works better.
IndyCar posted in-car video from Rahal’s car after he touched wheels with Pagenaud, sending the latter into the sand, on Lap 82. The only audio is some radio communication between Rahal and his team.
The video continues as Pagenaud comes roaring back, makes a few attempts to get around Rahal, and finally does on Lap 86, four laps from the checkered flag – as the Frenchman goes on to win his second consecutive IndyCar race.
Rahal finished a close second, allowing him to jump three places in the Verizon IndyCar Series point standings to sixth. He lost out on the deficit though, as he’s now 88 points behind series leader Pagenaud.