- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ok, so who’s been watching the debacle that is American Idol?

Yeah, I’ve tuned in, too, if for no other reason than to watch delusional people make fools of themselves.

The show just hasn’t been the same, though, since the first season when Kelly Clarkson won. I’m a fan of Kelly Clarkson. No, I’ve never purchased her music or seen her live. But her songs are pretty catchy and she’s managed to remain cute as a button without turning into a terrifying trainwreck like a lot of the other pop stars out there.

I bring up my favorite American Idol contestant here because she just signed a big deal with NASCAR to be a top spokesman and perform at the Daytona 500 next month. She’s going to film a 30-second commercial that will feature a new song from an upcoming album, and will be involved in NASCAR’s charitable ventures and its year-end awards dinner. She’ll also be the spokesman for NASCAR Day on May 18.

“Anyone who knows me knows I’m a race fan and love NASCAR,” Clarkson said. “It’s been cool doing things with NASCAR in the past and I’m honored to have the opportunity to play such a huge role for the sport in 2007. I look forward to hanging out with the fans, drivers and the entire NASCAR community.”

NASCAR, perhaps more than any other sport, has made a habit of partnering with top musical acts. The sport’s venues are perfect for pre-race concerts, and the artists like hanging out at the races and getting exposure. (Previous acts include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jewel, Lenny Kravitz, Leann Rimes, Sheryl Crow, Five for Fighting, Vanessa Williams and Lee Greenwood.)

Clarkson will probably do a good job for NASCAR; she’s from Texas and still has a wholesomeness about her, so it’s unlikely her presence will tick off the more conservative, southern fans that make up NASCAR’s most loyal core. But she has a nationwide appeal that fits with the sport’s efforts to reach out to new audiences.

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