Daytona 500 gets the celebrity treatment

Vince Vaughn, Kid Rock and the “Moonshiners” wow the crowd

DAYTONA BEACH — Vince Vaughn probably signed enough caps Sunday to outfit the entire population of Armington, Ill.

"We only have about 400 people," Kay Stroud said.

It was more like 398 over the weekend because Stroud and her husband were at the Daytona 500. She came to cheer for Tony Stewart and got an "Unfinished Business" cap as a bonus.

That's the name of Vaughn's next movie, coming to a theater near you on March 6. Not-so-coincidentally, Vaughn was the grand marshal of Sunday's race.

The Daytona 500 in not just a race, however.

It has blossomed into a chance for more than 100,000 people (the exact count is never announced, but it's more than the population of Armington, Ill.) to go celebrity-spotting.

More importantly, it's a chance for celebrities to hawk upcoming movies, albums, TV shows, moonshine, diet plans and whatever else might appeal to the NASCAR demographic.

"It is still to me one of the greatest sports," Kid Rock said. "It's more unpolitically correct than everything else. They say a prayer before they race. They kiss their wives. It's a great family event."

Rock, who was born Robert James Ritchie, began his career as a raucous rapper. The Detroit native has gone more country-rock the past few years. He revved the crowd Sunday with a mini-set of songs he'll perform in his upcoming "First Kiss" tour.

Also on the celebrity carousel was honorary Abby Wambach and two other members of the U.S. women's soccer team. Soccer may not seem like the second sport of choice for many NASCAR fans, but Wambach was there for a reason.

"The Women's World Cup is coming to FOX in 100 days," announcer Mike Joy reminded the TV audience as the green flag dropped.

Judging by the enthusiasm from the crowd, one show that gets a lot of NASCAR eyeballs is "Moonshiners."

Stock-car racing traces its origins to booze-hauling drivers like Junior Johnson being chased through the backwoods by the authorities.

That was long before the Discovery Channel sent its cameras into the Appalachians and turned moonshining into a reality show. Three of its stars took the main stage at the Daytona infield Sunday to discuss the upcoming season.

Spoiler Alert: The revenuers will be after them.

"The law does bother us," Tim Smith said.

Stroud got her picture taken with Smith. Future generations of Strouds will note that Smith was the person in the photo wearing bib overalls and no shirt.

Then Stroud nabbed one of the "Unfinished Business" caps distributed in Vaughn's wake. The star of "Wedding Crashers" was appropriately dressed Sunday in one of those caps, sunglasses, leather jacket and blue jeans.

He was closely trailed by a gargantuan bodyguard wearing the only blue pinstriped suit spotted at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday. Vaughn took the stage and was asked what his favorite race is.

"This one right here!" he bellowed.

The announcer quickly steered the conversation to "Unfinished Business." According to the movie's website, it's about a businessman (Vaughn) and two cohorts who go to Europe to close a business deal, only to make unplanned stops at "a massive sex fetish and a global economic summit."

Vaughn tried to explain how the audience will react.

"It's kind of like being in the first car of a rollercoaster," he said, "and you've been drinking all day."

Vaughn then left the stage to perform his official duties.

"Gentlemen," he yelled, "start your marketing!"

Make that, "Drivers, start your engines!"

Both forces roared on Sunday.

dwhitley@orlandosentinel.com

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