Cole Swindell is used to hearing his fans shriek when he walks on stage at his country-music shows, but on Wednesday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the singer was the one doing the screaming.
As part of a pit stop in Charlotte on his way to headlining tour dates in Asheville, Fayetteville and Columbia later in the week, Swindell visited the track to promote his pre-race concert at the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race on May 19. And while there, he took a few (very fast) spins around it with his pal Ryan Blaney in the NASCAR driver’s yellow No. 12 car.
Upon returning to pit road after reaching speeds approaching 200 mph, Swindell had a wide grin plastered onto his face – but he also might have been shaking just a little bit.
“What a thrill,” he told the Observer after his heart rate had finally stopped racing. “I mean, that’s – you can’t really – I can’t compare that with anything I’ve had the chance to do on the road. ... Thank God that (the tires) have the grip that they do.
“I mean, I screamed a couple of times, I think. ... The more we went (around), we kept going faster and faster and he’d get up higher and higher each time, ’cause I knew he wanted to get me right there by the wall one good time, since my face was right here by it. So he got it up there the last couple laps really close. I don’t know if he was joking or not, but he said he about hit the wall in (Turn) 1 or 2 at some point. So I’m glad he didn’t do that.”
Apparently, Blaney wasn’t joking.
“The first lap, I was kinda careful with the wall, and then the second one, I kinda went pretty hard at the wall and I got pretty tight in 1 and 2,” Blaney told reporters afterward. “I was like, ‘Ooooo!’ I had to bail. You want to show him a good time, but at the same time, you don’t want to do anything stupid.”
The singer (a nearly lifelong NASCAR fan) and the driver (who’s not much of a country-music fan) said they have been friends since meeting at the Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway a couple of years ago.
“He’s actually come to Nashville in some downtime in the offseason, and I showed him around Nashville, and today he’s getting to show me around Charlotte,” Swindell says. “So I’m glad that it was him that was driving, because you’ve gotta really trust somebody when you’re going that fast.”
Wednesday’s visit marked the 34-year-old Bronwood, Ga. native’s third trip to Charlotte in the past nine months; he performed at Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement party at Whisky River in uptown Charlotte in December, and also opened for Dierks Bentley at PNC Music Pavilion last June.
On May 19, Swindell – who dropped a new single, “Break Up in the End,” in February, and plans to release a new album later this year – will be back to perform a 70-minute pre-race concert at 2 p.m., before the event in which NASCAR’s most heralded drivers will face off for a $1 million prize (Blaney among them). Swindell also will co-host driver introductions.
As usual, the concert is “free” – which means free for anyone who’s paid for admission to the race. But it’s a great perk if you’re already going, and fans who really dig Swindell can pay $20 more for access to a reserved area in front of the stage, which will be set up at the entrance outside of Turn 1 near Gate 8 at the track.
Will Swindell return the favor and give Blaney a taste of what it feels like to be a country-music star?
“Ah, not at the All-Star Race, I don’t think, because it’s right before the race,” the singer said. “But I definitely am making him do it at some point, yes. He’s getting out there.”