Brantley Gilbert performs on day one of the 2014 Stagecoach Music Festival at the Empire Polo Field on Friday, April 25, 2014 in Indio, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Turns out Kurt Busch isn’t the only one doing the double Memorial Day weekend.
Country music star Brantley Gilbert is planning to attend the Indianapolis 500 on May 25 as part of the sponsorship of 19-year-old Sage Karam, and then hop a flight to Charlotte in time to perform a pre-race concert for the Sprint Cup race that night.
“I think my label’s goal and my management’s goal the whole week is they’re legitimately trying to kill me,” Gilbert told The Associated Press on Monday. “But if I sat down for 5 minutes without anything to do, I’d lose my mind. That’s kind of how we roll.”
Big Machine Label Group has a longstanding relationship with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams. So as part of the release of Gilbert’s latest album, “Just As I Am,” the label is planning a marathon day at the races that will make Gilbert hard to miss.
Along with landing his likeness on Karam’s IndyCar and the No. 1 Chevrolet driven by Jamie McMurray for the Sprint Cup race, the country crooner will also be featured in some fashion on IndyCars driven by defending champion Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe, and an entry in the Nationwide race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“This is just the perfect way to finish up our week,” Big Machine President Scott Borchetta told AP. “It’s just a great way to tie everything together.”
Gilbert’s third studio album hits stores May 19, and he’ll be promoting it with a six-day motorcycle ride that starts two days later in Athens, Georgia. The ride continues with stops in South Carolina and North Carolina before finishing at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.
Of course, with a slight detour to Indianapolis.
Gilbert is partnering on the ride with The Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides support for the families of soldiers killed or disabled in service.
“I’m a huge supporter of our military, and Memorial Day’s been an important day for me for quite a while,” he said. “What better place to finish than Arlington?”
Gilbert also has been a big NASCAR fan for years, and has attended several Brickyard 400s. But he’s never been to an IndyCar race, and the winner of the Academy of Country Music’s New Male Artist award marveled at the speed Monday after watching Karam turn a few laps.
“I knew my name was going to be on the car but I didn’t know my face was going to be on it,” Gilbert said with a laugh. “Pretty good to know the car is going to be going 230 mph.”
Gilbert was also impressed by Karam, the reigning Indy Lights champion, who is skipping his senior prom in Pennsylvania to attempt to qualify at Indy.
“I’m telling you what, man, that guy can drive the hell out of that car,” Gilbert said. “It was awesome to watch. To be so young, I didn’t know what to expect.”
If nothing else, Karam should feel good about the sponsorship: Big Machine was also involved with winning cars driven by Dan Wheldon in 2011 and Dario Franchitti in 2012.
“It’s not often you get to work with someone like Brantley Gilbert, who is not only a race fan but also has plenty of fans in racing,” Chip Ganassi Racing President Steve Lauletta said. “Memorial Day weekend will be a fun time for all of us.”