Race Weekend Central

Reel Racing: Celebrities at NASCAR Races So Far in 2023

It’s been a pretty great year so far as far as NASCAR race appearances are concerned.

We’ve seen plenty of Hollywood stars and other notable celebrities show their faces at tracks around the country over the years, but a large portion of those were typically to push a movie, project or otherwise; rare were the times in which they were simply out there to enjoy the race with nothing specific to promote.

More recently, though, it seems to be a bit more event-based. Sure, the Daytona 500 and the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum draw celebrities due to their status (the former) or their location (the latter), but some races outside of those have hosted big names of their own.

We’ll do an Oscars-themed feature next week in the wake of the 95th edition of the awards, but it’s worth noting who’s walked the grid at tracks so far this year (and who might pop up later on in 2023).

Busch Light Clash at the LA Coliseum

Aside from a few mainstays — or, at least, past faces that had showed up at NASCAR races, like NFL veteran (turned NASCAR advocate and avid iRacer) Bernard Pollard — the 2023 Busch Light Clash at the LA Coliseum featured a host of celebrities.

Some returning stars included Michael Rooker, most notable in racing for his role as Rowdy Burns in Days of Thunder (but also for wearing a City Chevrolet hat in F9); Danny Trejo, who has nearly 300 movie credits to his name, chief of which include Heat, From Dusk Till Dawn, the Machete franchise and two of Robert Rodriguez’s three Mexico Trilogy films (Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico); and Joel McHale of Community fame, who served as the voice of driver introductions.

Rooker is no stranger to NASCAR races, having been the honorary pace car driver at Richmond Raceway’s 2018 spring race. Trejo waved the green flag at Auto Club Speedway last year, and McHale did a prerecorded bit with Daniel Suarez that aired before the Clash last year.

Frontstretch‘s Michael Massie and Dalton Hopkins caught up with McHale, Rooker and Trejo in LA.

Wiz Khalifa headlined the newcomers in Los Angeles, though, providing the “halftime show” during the race, while Rob Lowe took on the role of grand marshal and commanded drivers to start their engines.

Kurt Russell (The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, Bone Tomahawk and many more), one of my personal all-time favorite actors, was in attendance but never made an appearance captured via photo or video.

Russell shares credits with a couple others who made appearances at the Clash — he and Rooker were both in F9 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and he and Sung Kang were both part of a couple of the Fast and Furious films. All three are part of F9, and it remains to be seen whether Russell will return in Fast X later this year.

Glen Powell, one of the brightest rising stars in Hollywood, was at the Clash. He was primarily known for his collaborations with fellow rising star Zoey Deutch in Everybody Wants Some!! (a personal favorite sports film) and Set It Up, but really hit the big time this year with a supporting role in Top Gun: Maverick.

Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, given the former’s song “Bringing Back the Sunshine” becoming the anthem for NASCAR on NBC coverage in 2017, were no surprise, and UFC legend Chuck Liddell also walked the red carpet.

Also included were actress Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Scream 4, Bad Moms) and husband Dax Shepard (Knocked Up, Idiocracy). Both showed up at Bristol Motor Speedway last fall, as well.

Daytona 500

Let’s start with the obvious: WWE star Charlotte Flair (as someone not big on wrestling, I know her via my knowledge of Ric Flair and only a couple other current wrestling stars from pop culture osmosis) took a photo with Norm Benning, but how are we sure she didn’t ask him for it rather than the other way around?

Jokes aside, Flair followed in fellow wrestler Sasha Banks’ footsteps in appearing at the 500; Banks waved the green flag there in 2021.

Others included former Saturday Night Live mainstay Pete Davidson, who attended with girlfriend and Bodies Bodies Bodies co-star Chase Sui Wonders. Davidson looked right at home in a Martin Truex Jr. jacket, while Wonders donned a Kevin Harvick overlay.

Others included comedian Tiffany Haddish (Bad Trip, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent), former NFL stars Larry Fitzgerald and Brandon Marshall, country singer Dierks Bentley and more.

Auto Club Speedway

Chief among those at Auto Club is (remember him?) Michael Rooker, who gave the command to start engines for the Cup race.

Actor Alfonso Ribeiro (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and beach volleyball legend Misty May-Treanor also made appearances.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Most recently, Frontstretch’s own Massie and Bryan Nolen ran into a few familiar faces at Las Vegas this past weekend. Kal Penn, most notably of the Harold & Kumar films, discussed his history with NASCAR on pit road before the race.

Penn is guest hosting The Daily Show on Comedy Central next week and was at LVMS on Saturday and Sunday (March 5-6) filming a segment for it.

UFC star Miesha Tate discussed the race and the UFC event in town the night before, and Nolen caught up with Barstool Sports’ Joey Camasta and Alex Bennett.

Who’s Next?

Last year brought a few additional faces to the track we hadn’t seen before — or at least rarely. Both Massie and I had a fun conversation with former NFL player Kyle Long, whose brother Chris was on hand to drive the pace car at Richmond Raceway, and both brothers have shown interest in racing.

Going back to Bell and Shepard, given some of the Instagram posts from both of their accounts, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both showed up to more races across multiple divisions of motorsports in the future.

If nothing else, it’s fantastic to see NASCAR — and motorsports as a whole — having a seemingly ever-expanding reach. Who knows? Maybe Margot Robbie shows up at Richmond, Jonathan Majors attends Sonoma Raceway, Dave Bautista heads to Michigan International Speedway or Jennifer Lawrence takes a pace car lap at Texas Motor Speedway. Anything seems possible.

About the author

Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

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Are they that desperate for attention? Any port in a storm!

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