Auto racing has been so inextricably associated with country music that a major reason why Phil Metz was hired at NASCAR in 2003 was to help broaden its audience. “We love country but we didn’t want to limit ourselves to it,” he says. And while the genre remains the cornerstone of NASCAR’s music involvement, Metz has brought others in as well: Between its races -- like its biggest, the Daytona 500, which drew 14.1 million TV viewers in February -- and “off-track” events like its Sprint Car Series Awards in Las Vegas on Dec. 2, the organization has presented heartland-friendly acts like Florida Georgia Line, Kid Rock and Zac Brown Band, but also Kelly Clarkson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Aloe Blacc and even Sara Bareilles.
Metz, 40, brings a diverse background in music to the job: His late father, Stephen, was a music producer and executive, and his mother Wendy a singer who performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. He held a series of music-industry jobs -- including an internship at Elektra Records under Sylvia Rhone (who had worked for his father’s Bareback Records in the 1970s); roles with Eureka Records, ArtistDirect and his dad’s company; and some music supervision -- that all come into play with his Los Angeles-based role at the biggest auto-racing organization in the United States.