Taylor Hicks, an Alabama native and lifelong NASCAR fan, was on hand Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway to sing the national anthem ahead of the Camping World RV Sales 500. The singer, who won the fifth season of "American Idol" and is enjoying a residency at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, revealed that he's been a big fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr. for years.
Read more about Hicks' NASCAR roots and his thoughts on former Idol judge Simon Cowell.
Q: How excited are you sitting in front of all these fans here at Talladega?
A: You know, I was thinking when I was driving to the track, I think it's a lot easier to sing in your home state than anywhere else. I've sung the anthem a lot and I love getting here early and I enjoy, you know, seeing all the folks from my home state. I like to tell people, 'When you sing the national anthem, it's always good to get to the track early and enjoy all of the ambiance and all of the pre-race festivities,' and I'm looking forward to singing it because I believe in it and I live the American dream and I appreciate all of the service men and women that fight for our country to be able for all of us to live our own respective dreams.
Q: Being from Birmingham (Ala.), have you kept up with NASCAR over the years, from your childhood days up to now?
A: I played one of my first shows in the infield at Talladega about 20 years ago. We used to come to the infield and we used to play music and I just, obviously being from Alabama, it's football and racing; it's in your blood. I don't think that ever leaves, so I have a very fond appreciation for race cars and obviously NASCAR, being from the state of Alabama.
Q: Can you, when you look back [at] where you were growing up, being in the infield at Talladega... sort of see how your career has taken off with "American Idol" success?
A: Well, I never thought in a million years that I would actually be performing the national anthem at Talladega and actually 15 years ago be performing in the infield, trying to make it as an artist. I'm very appreciative of the state of Alabama and obviously all the NASCAR fans that have supported me and supporting me as an Idol and voted for me it's one of those special things that I'm very honored and blessed to be a part of NASCAR and to be singing the national anthem today.
Q: Is Simon Cowell mean?
A: Yes, Simon was mean.
Q: So if you were here 20 years ago singing in the infield, what were you singing?
A: A lot of my music is roots-oriented; I like to look at it as very roots-driven. Obviously growing up and being here from Alabama, the heart of Dixie, you pick up a lot of genres for music so a lot of roadhouse, a lot of country, a lot of blues and I just remember having the time of my life here and obviously being able to come back home it's a blessing; it's a dream come true.
Q: What's your biggest memory of one of the races that you've seen, start to finish?
A: One great and bad thing about performing in the infield is if you come to the race, you're going to have to stay for the race and luckily I was a big Dale Jr. fan and I was following his career. (David) Stremme and a lot of guys were on the Soul Patrol when I was going through Idol and I just appreciate the sport so much and being a part of it and being in the infield it might be just a little bit different than being in the grandstands but the camaraderie and obviously all the fans and I had a really great time. I try to stay for all of them, I do a lot of tours and obviously I've got the residency at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas so I get out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and I'm just a true fan of the sport, for sure.
FULL SERIES COVERAGE
- Sports & Recreation
- Motor Racing
- Simon Cowell
- Taylor Hicks
- American Idol