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NASCAR Sprint Sound & Speed presented by SunTrust

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Sprint Sound & Speed presented by SunTrust

Mike Bliss
Mallory Hope
Ernie Irvan
January 9, 2010


KERRY THARP: Good morning. If I can have your attention please, we'll get started with our media availabilities for the 2010 Sprint Sound & Speed presented by SunTrust here at Nashville, Tennessee. Maybe a little chilly on the outside, but certainly warm on the inside. We're pleased to have everyone here today. It's kind of a great way for us to combine two very, very passionate fan bases and industries, and that's NASCAR and country music. Certainly benefit two great causes, The Victory Junction Camp and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. We appreciate your attendance here today and are glad to have you here.
Up on our podium to my immediate left is Ernie Irvan. Ernie was named one of NASCAR's greatest drivers in 1998. He is the 1991 Daytona 500 winner. 313 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. He went to Victory Lane 15 times. Ernie, welcome to Nashville, thank you for being here.
ERNIE IRVAN: Thank you.
KERRY THARP: To the far left is Mike Bliss, NASCAR driver. He's run in all three series. 476 combined starts across the three national series. Coming off a very solid year. He finished fifth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings. He's going to be racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2010.
At this time I'm turn it over to Holly.
HOLLY: In the middle we have Mallory Hope. By the time she was a sophomore in high school, Mallory was performing 150 shows a year. Her determination was so intense that her family pulled up stakes from Georgia and moved to Music City when she was 17. She finished her education as a home-schooled student when en route to signing a sound publishing contract and recording more than 500 demos as a Music Row session singer.
Last November at age 21 Mallory signed a recording contract with MCA Records. Her new single Blossom in the Dust will be coming in February.
KERRY THARP: We'll start here with Ernie. Tell us about your involvement here with Sprint Sound & Speed and why you like coming here. I think you've been here several times.
ERNIE IRVAN: I like coming here trying to meet the country-western singers. I'm going to take her and we're going to go ARCA racing. We're looking at that. She's going to outdo all the other females that are starting to run ARCA.
So we're going to do that. I mean, I think a lot of people are going to be able to start watching her.
KERRY THARP: Excellent. Mike Bliss, I know you had some good news come out last month driving I believe the No. 36 car for Tommy Baldwin, racing full-time this season. Talk about that and talk about how you're gearing up for the 2010 season.
MIKE BLISS: First we came here for the good weather. That didn't happen, did it (laughter)? I don't know whether it's any warmer. We should go to Miami for this maybe next year, that would be good.
Yeah, this is Tommy Baldwin Racing. Second year. He's been a crew chief for a long time. Won a lot of races. Him and Wave Energy Drink, which will be the sponsor, will be doing the whole year. My hat is off to Tommy because it's a big ordeal to decide to be an owner, not a crew chief. He's really sticking his neck out. I'm excited about being involved with a team that's new. Sophomore year. I like doing that kind of a deal and setup. I like being part of something. It's what I feel like we are.
HOLLY: Mallory, tell us about how you got signed to MCA Records.
MALLORY HOPE: I have a really great team behind me. We got together and decided it was time we went to Music Row, met a few different records label. I felt like I had the song ready and the record written already. I walked in and played for MCA and Luke Lewis, the president, and knew in my heart that's where I was supposed to be. They signed me to a record deal.
We put a song out in August, that went to 36 on Billboard or 40 on Billboard, somewhere right there. We are getting ready right now to release a new song in February called Blossom in the Dust. My whole album I got to co-write 10 of the 11 songs. When you get the album, if you want to know about my life in Georgia, every song has a story, so I can't wait for y'all to hear it.

Q. Mallory, how old were you when you started singing and you knew you wanted to be a singer? I find it more interesting. I know Ernie. We want to know about Mallory.
MALLORY HOPE: My parents are standing right there. This is my first event like this, so I'm sweating a little bit. I'm not going to lie.
But I started singing when I was two and three. I knew that this is what I wanted to do when I was nine. We came up to Nashville. I sang at the Nashville Palace with a house band. On the two-hour drive back home to Georgia, I told my parents that no matter what happens, you know, this is what I want to do. I want to quit cheerleading, sports, all that stuff, be a singer and songwriter.
Actually taught myself how to yodel on the way home. I had seen somebody yodel when I came up here. I drove my parents nuts. I figured it out by the time I got home, didn't I? I've been singing my whole life.

Q. Mallory, we've known each other a very long while.

Q. You are the only successful artist to come out of NACMA. You must be very proud about that.
MALLORY HOPE: NACMA is a really great organization. It's something I started doing when I was 13 or 14. I joined the Country Music and Gospel Association in Georgia, which turned into the NACMA association. Every March all these kids that were in the music business would come and compete with each other and meet and learn and grow. So for like five years I did that.
The NACMA association is really great for kids who want to follow a dream of doing music. So I love it. I'm glad that I did that because it put me on stage and let me meet a lot of other musicians. It's a great organization.

Q. Mike, you being a full-time Nationwide driver, one of the sticky points is a lot of the Cup drivers come down and win a lot of the races. Do you think with Danica's even part-time schedule will help with some of the focus on some of the Nationwide races and drivers?
MIKE BLISS: I think Danica is going to steal a lot of the thunder from all of us drivers till her first or second race. There's a lot of emphasis on her. She's somebody that everybody is going to be watching at Daytona. Thank God it's her. The camera is going to be on her. A lot of pressure.
Yeah, I mean, it is tough for a regular Nationwide driver for his team and himself to get that attention and that exposure because it's overshadowed by the Cup guys.
But, you know, that's the way it is. It's been that way for a while. It's just kind of got getting worse, but we're starting to lose a little more owners in the Nationwide Series as far as owners. They're the ones that need the recognition, I think.

Q. Mallory, as a songwriter, any songs you wrote on your upcoming CD that you have a great story behind and would like to share?
MALLORY HOPE: Yeah, thank you. Actually Blossom in the Dust is coming out to radio on February 16th. No pressure, but please call your local radio station (laughter).
But that song actually it's the name of the album, too. It's a song I wrote with two friends of mine about a girl I went to school with who grew up in a rough family life and actually I think at one point became adopted. So the song is called Blossom in the Dust and it talks about this little girl who really didn't have a chance, then someone else giving her a chance. She kind of like blossomed out of the dust that she was in.
That song really means a lot to me. I can't wait to hear what people think. Every song on there really does mean a lot to me because I got to write it. The single we just had, Love Lives On, was written about my sister. I wrote it about her and her husband, who just had a baby. They're both in the military. I had asked my sister if my nephew was planned or if he was a surprise because we found out that my brother-in-law was getting ready to leave for 18 months in Iraq.
She told me when they found that out, they decided to have a baby, because if something were to happen to him, she would want a piece of him to be reminded of and see him in that child. So out of that conversation the next day I wrote the song Love Lives On.
So everything on there has a story. I can't wait to hear what y'all think about it.

Q. Ernie, you remember what it was like when NASCAR used to do the preview in Winston-Salem. Can you compare what this event is like compare to Winston-Salem?
ERNIE IRVAN: The deal with Winston-Salem grew throughout the years. What this is doing is it started to keep growing. Last year it was not quite as big as this year. It wasn't quite as organized. I mean, they just keep doing it better and better. It's just the same thing as RJR was doing. They just kept doing it and making it more convenient for the drivers to get in and out, sign their autographs, be able to come here and do this.
I think that's very important. I know SunTrust and everybody that's involved has been doing that. You know, right here at this stadium, it's perfect to do it in. It's indoors. Everybody can get an autograph that wants an autograph. You know, the drivers and the car owners and the country-western singers, they can all know that, Okay, we can be in and out in a certain amount of time. It just makes it convenient.

Q. For the drivers, is it more fun to have country singers?
ERNIE IRVAN: You know what's really nice. When I raced all the time, you'd get asked a lot of questions. You'd like to sit next to her because this is Nashville and it's more country-western part. So a lot of people like to ask her questions.
So it's good. You know, obviously country-western singing and NASCAR and going fast kind of like corresponds. I think a lot of that is that's what this Sound & Speed is all about. There's a lot of people that are NASCAR fans that are very big country-western fans. It's nice to be able to come and intermingle with the country-western singers and go to some of the deals like last night and tonight, be able to, you know, hear 'em sing, watch 'em perform. 'Cause a lot of times they're able to watch us perform, but it's always at the racetrack. So now we get to see them right here in their hometown.

Q. Mike, congratulations on your new ride. Your first race is going to be the biggest race of the season. How much pressure is that going into it, being outside the top 35 in points, having to go in with an all new team for you and qualify and race probably the biggest field of the year?
MIKE BLISS: Yeah, Daytona, like you said, is our Super Bowl. It's the first race of the year. We have qualifying races on Thursday to get us in the race. Thursday is probably one of the worst races of the whole season as far as drivers that have to get into the race.
I can remember in the years past being in the same situation. You're constantly on the radio asking, Who do we need to be, where do we need to be, with the spotter. There's more of that going on than there is spotting. It's a big chess match. You just don't know if something happens, you're involved in a wreck or something, there goes your whole weekend. It starts off the year. I remember starting off good at Daytona, the whole year just keeps going from there.
There's a lot of pressure on Thursday. That's the worst race of the whole year for me.

Q. Ernie, in 1999, you stepped into a Nationwide car that ended your racing career. Looking back at it now, would you not race in the Nationwide Series knowing the fact that you're a lucrative Sprint Cup driver?
ERNIE IRVAN: I probably would have still done the same thing because you never know what tomorrow brings. Obviously I got hurt the first time in a Cup car. It could happen anywhere. You know, if it didn't happen that day, it could have happened some other day.
You know, when you drive down the street, you don't know what's gonna happen. I mean, I felt like it was a brand-new car. It was a very well-built car. I owned it. So we felt like we had done everything possible to make the car safe.
If it was today, the cars are so much safer now.
MIKE BLISS: The walls are softer, Ernie.
ERNIE IRVAN: Still hard, but a little softer (laughter). There's so many safety features that have been done and a lot is just because of the different wrecks that have happened. NASCAR and all the builders, they've all learned from it. The head and neck restraint, they didn't have a head and neck restraint when I wrecked.
All those things have blossomed since all the things that have happened. I mean, probably today I'm not real bright, I probably still would have been doing it. I'd probably still be running the Nationwide car and still be doing the Cup car. I'm almost at the verge of almost being too old, but Mark Martin keeps making it where I can maybe still do it.

Q. Mallory, starting out so young, performing 150 shows a year as a sophomore in high school, as far as being around so many people that heard you perform, was there one compliment you received that overwhelmed you that stood out over others as the years as you grew up in your career, something that blew you away, impact a song that made a difference in somebody's life?
MALLORY HOPE: Yeah, I think most recently, Love Lives On, my first single we had out, it's been out for about six months. It's very interesting to me because I know I'm just getting started in this radio world. I've been able to go across the country and sing in different states, meet different people, hear from them on a daily basis of how they're using Love Lives On in their life because of the song topic and the way we wrote it. We wanted to leave it open so anybody that was going through a loss could use the song.
Every day I get things from people on my space, Facebook, Twitter, who tell me about their husband who is overseas right now, their mother who passed away, they just lost their child. Everybody that sends me messages has been changing my life and blessing me.
I think it's really cool to know that we're having some kind of emotional impact on someone else, yeah.
KERRY THARP: Thank you very much, Ernie, Mallory, Mike. Have a great day.

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