John Oates Song Picked for NASCAR Nationwide Show Theme

The relationship between sports, music, and the people who make the music has been historically strong. From Hank Williams Jr.’s theme for ABC’s Monday Night Football to Faith Hill’s rock-diva take on NBC’s Sunday-night NFL-game franchise, celebrity musicians and sports shows enjoy a creative symbiosis that also seems to resonate for viewers.

The latest entry into this sweepstakes is “Stand Strong,” the lead track from John Oates’s Good Road To Follow project, which debuted as the theme for NASCAR’s Nationwide Series race telecast on March 16 on ESPN and in the network’s prerace NASCAR Countdown show. Half of the Hall & Oates duo, which racked up a slew of number-one hits in the 1970s and ’80s with their blue-eyed–soul sound selling 80 million albums, Oates says he listened to the track after he recorded it in Nashville and it had sports written all over it.

“We just realized that it had that vibe,” he says. “The lyrics are about teamwork and brotherhood, and it’s a theme that really meshes with what NASCAR’s all about.”

Bekka Bramlett, who sang backup vocals on the track, agreed. “She said, ‘That sounds like Super Bowl or something like it to me!’” Oates recalls. “It has that anthemic quality that you want in a sports theme song.”

Oates is not only a racing fan but a competitive driver since his teens — racing go-karts, Formula Fords, and open-cockpit Pro Sports 2000 series cars — and drove a Porsche GTR in IMSA races at Lime Rock and Daytona. He sent the song to friend Rich Feinberg, VP of motorsports for ESPN, who felt it was a winning match for the first Nationwide Series race show. Oates says it may end up being used on other events in that 33-race series, and he hopes it elicits similar feelings from producers on other sports shows.

Hall & Oates tracks are no stranger to television placement — “You Make My Dreams” underscores spots for both Nissan and Toyota — but Oates’s new project offers him a different stream of possibilities. Rather than a traditional full-album release, Good Road To Follow will see the release of a single every month beginning in June. “It’s about getting people to capture the moment, capture their attention, and getting them to respond to it,” he explains, which, when you think about it, is also a good formula for sports themes.

Oates spends half his time in Nashville, which might be another good move for connecting music with sports. In addition to Hank Williams Jr. and Faith Hill, country pair Big & Rich have scored ESPN’s College Gameday show’s theme since 2005, and country music’s connections to auto racing have traditionally been strong.

Oates describes himself as an average listener to sports shows but says he keeps an ear out for interesting songs and has an appreciation for some of car-racing audio’s finer points. “I can understand the microphone placements along the tracks to get the Doppler effect, and I like ‘Crank It Up,’” he says, referring to mixer Fred Aldous’s sound-effects “drum solo” on Fox Sports’ NASCAR shows. “I hope we’ll hear this song on other [sports] shows in the future.”

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