Back in 2003, when Trace Adkins was still in the early stages of a career that would eventually make him a country music legend, he did something that took him to the next level.

He sponsored his own NASCAR race.

“That’s so funny,” Adkins tells Taste of Country about that memory. “I remember, I had like two or three Platinum records and a few No. 1s by then, but when I sponsored that race, that’s when my daddy said, ‘You finally made it.’”

One must wonder what Adkins’ dad, who died in 2014, would have thought of the fact that now, his son is prepping to grab the microphone to sing the national anthem before the 64th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday (Feb. 20.)

While Adkins has sung the anthem a number of times in the past, it’s an opportunity and a moment that still makes him quite nervous.

“The one thing that still makes me nervous and gives me butterflies is singing the national anthem,” says the Grand Ole Opry member. “Because if you screw that one up, people remember it forever. And you can't play around with the lyrics. I mean, it's become acceptable these days to kind of fiddle around with the melody a little bit, but you can't mess with the lyrics. So yeah, it still makes me nervous.”

Adkins has been quite a NASCAR fan since back in the day, when he moved from his home state of Louisiana to Tennessee and quickly became a fan of racing.

“I got started doing some stuff with Sterling (Marlin) and got to know him pretty well,” Adkins remembers. “I’ve also done a bunch of stuff with Michael (Waltrip) and Darrell Waltrip. I kind of have always leaned more toward the drivers that I have a personal relationship with. Those are the ones I tend to pull for.”

While the action on the track always draws Adkins in, it’s the fans in the stands that he says he truly relates to.

“That NASCAR crowd…those are my people,” says Adkins, who will head to Daytona straight from the set of upcoming Fox series Monarch, which is currently filming in Atlanta. “We are cut pretty much from the same cloth.”

And come Sunday, a sold-out crowd at Daytona International Speedway will all be there to pay homage to the country star.

“The build-up to the anthem and the race and all is always great,” he says. “And this year especially, because everybody's been kind of held back for the last couple years and not really able to get together and enjoy stuff. I think this year in Florida is going to be crazy.”

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