Six pack of pop: Mario Lopez

NASCAR.com
Six pack of pop: Mario Lopez
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Six pack of pop: Mario Lopez

Mario Lopez, best known for his role years ago as ego-driven teen A.C. Slater on "Saved by the Bell," has enjoyed a second career as a successful, seemingly ubiquitous, TV host. Lopez was the runner-up to former NFL star Emmitt Smith in the third season of "Dancing with the Stars." Since then, he's hosted the entertainment news program "Extra" and the singing competition reality show "The X Factor" on FOX.

Lopez is no stranger to NASCAR events, having attended functions around races at Auto Club Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. He made his first trip to Martinsville Speedway on April 7, when he served as the honorary starter for the STP Gas Booster 500. Beforehand, Lopez admitted that he just wanted to make sure not to drop the flag at the start. He didn't.

Lopez took time out from his pre-race rounds to speak with NASCAR.com.

I know you've attended NASCAR races in the past. Are there any driver connections for you?

"I've gotten to know a few of the drivers throughout the years. Jimmie (Johnson), I know is from near San Diego in El Cajon, and I'm from San Diego myself, not too far away. So I always support him and Jeff Gordon as well, but Carl Edwards, I've gotten to know him, too, and have had him on my show a bunch. Those guys are great, and I like any time to get a chance to come out and check out the races."

How do you enjoy the atmosphere at a place like this?

"Yeah, it's a big festival atmosphere and at the same time, a big family atmosphere. We're already having a good time."

You've done a dancing reality show. You've hosted a singing reality show. Could you see NASCAR drivers adapting to either one?

"The drivers would be great. Well, the singing show, we don't have a celebrity one, but I think it would be great for the sport. I think it could definitely expand the demographic."

Have you had an opportunity to drive a race car or at least take a ride-along?

"I've had a few ride-alongs, unfortunately they won't let me drive the car. I've tried, but I do my best version back home on my own."

Ever see a chance for a NASCAR reality show? I realize we have ("Survivor" producer) Mark Burnett here today, who would be the guy to make that happen.

"Yeah, and maybe I could host it for him. That'd be really cool. I think HBO did a really good job when they did the 24/7. And if there was some sort of competition, "X Factor"-ish type of show, I think it would do well. It'd be an expensive show, but it would definitely get fan support."

I know you still get people saying, "Hey, Slater. Where's Screech?" Does it bother you that people still call you Slater?

"No, I've done so much stuff, and I'm flattered that I'm still recognized by it. I get it all the time. It means I haven't aged that much, I guess."

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