NASCAR’s Carl Edwards sat in a television booth high above Texas Motor Speedway, bright lights shining on his forehead, makeup artists touching up his dimpled cheeks with powder.
The rock band Foreigner, performed during pre-race festivities and sang the national anthem before last weekend’s Sprint Cup race, was superimposed on a monitor behind Edwards.
Fast cars and loud music are as much part of racing as the roar of engines and smell of burning rubber, and Edwards was in the studio to talk about his passion for hot rods and hot songs for an episode of “Behind the Music Remastered: Foreigner” to air later this year on VH1 Classic.
At one time, Edwards, a self-taught guitarist, owned his own record label, Back40 Records, but is no longer is active in the industry. “It helped me learn how tough the music business is,” Edwards said.
But Edwards has maintained his relationships with those in the music industry, including Foreigner, with whom he became acquainted in 2009 when the group shot the video of its song “Can’t Slow Down” at Auto Club Speedway in California.
“That’s the perfect racing song,” said Edwards, who will be one of the favorites in the Sprint Cup STP 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. “It’s cool to hear them play that at race tracks.”
Edwards befriended Foreigner lead singer Kelly Hansen at the California event
“Kelly was so nice, and down-to-earth and loved cars and loved racing,” Edwards said, “and I didn’t realize at that time that Foreigner sang one of my personal favorite songs, and that’s ‘Juke Box Hero.’ So to meet Kelly and to talk to these guys and to see their resurgence and they’re becoming relevant again in music is very cool.
“That song perfectly describes it. It’s the kid who wants more than anything to achieve his dreams. He goes out and gets a guitar and makes it happen, and then like so often happens in life, you forget what your dreams are about … it’s such a killer song.”
Edwards, 32, can pinpoint exactly where he was the first time he heard “Juke Box Hero.”
“I was driving in my car, crossing the Missouri River bridge on I-70 at night,” he said. “I was going to some race somewhere or coming back, and that song came on, and it perfectly described my desire to want to race.”
The first CD Edwards bought for his car was entitled “Songs for the Road” and kept him alert while driving from his home in Columbia, Mo., to short tracks throughout the Midwest before he made his mark in NASCAR.
“I was about 17 years old,” he said, “and bought my first Mustang. I remember going into the store and picking out my first CD, and I thought, ‘Songs for the Road’ was perfect. It had all these classic rock hits, and I wore that thing out.
“In the car, I listen to everything. I like songs that tell a story. I like to be motivated by music. That’s what’s so cool about Foreigner and songs like ‘Juke Box Hero,’ they call to a part of you that’s deep down and motivates you.”
Edwards won’t be lacking for motivation this weekend at Kansas Speedway. He has yet win a Sprint Cup race at the track, though he has four top-five finishes, including a dramatic second-place to Jimmie Johnson in 2008.
Edwards has not won anywhere since March 2011 at Las Vegas, a streak of 40 starts since doing a backflip. Winning only one race last year proved to be the critical tie-breaker in Edwards’ finishing second in the Chase for the Sprint Cup last year.
“I understand how this sport works,” said Edwards, who is 11th in the standings after seven races. “I’m prepared to dominate the Chase this year. That is my mission. Right now we’re in the first part of that.
“We have to get as many points as we can. We need to win a couple of races to get those bonus points and make sure we’re locked into the field, but most of all, we need to be taking notes right now so we can come back and win this race in the fall.”