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The noise ... The speed ... The death-defying danger. Country fans can't get enough of the thrills of NASCAR.

"Nothing beats the exhilaration of a race!" declares longtime fan Tanya Tucker. Her fellow performers couldn't agree more - wave a checkered flag and the stars show up!

"When you grow up in the country, you love to eat, you love country music and you love NASCAR," explains Kenny Chesney.

For Trace Adkins, that bond was tightened a notch this year when the Trace Adkins Chrome 300 NASCAR Busch Series in Nashville carried his name. "I've been a big fan of racing for as long as I can remember," says Trace. "So you can imagine how honored I am!"

The star-car connection shows up time and again as a growing number of country headliners sponsor their own cars. Driver Sterling Marlin's car featured Brooks & Dunn's Coors Light logo. Derrick Cope sported Wynonna's image on his car. Alabama, Diamond Rio, George Jones, Sammy Kershaw, Tracy Lawrence and many more have climbed aboard the sponsorship game.

"The reason why country music and NASCAR are so closely related is because NASCAR is life, it's about real people," says Montgomery Gentry's Troy Gentry. "And country is about real people, about everyday life."

Racing legend Richard Petty agrees. "Country music goes hand in hand with NASCAR racing," he says. "The songs speak to people about what's going on in their own lives."

"NASCAR and country fans are exactly the same," adds Kyle Petty, Richard's son. "They've got the same loyalties and the same community values, whether it be small town or big town it doesn't make any difference."

Racing and country share plenty of history. In the '60s, Marty Robbins raced competitively by day, then "raced" to the Opry stage to sing by night! Decades later, Travis Tritt competed in NHRA drag racing. Brooks & Dunn attended Richard Petty's Racing School and competed in scaled-down Legends cars for several years. "We drove," recalls Kix, "and fell in love!"

To read more of Start Your Engines!, pick up the latest issue of Country Weekly Magazine!

-- Story by M.B. Roberts and David Scarlett