Motor Racing Outreach president Billy Mauldin, NASCAR driver Michael McDowell, and Eddy "Rawsrvnt" Puyol
Photo courtesy of Rawsrvnt
When considering the soundtrack for a NASCAR race event, few people would mention Christian rap as the first music genre that comes to mind. But given the passionate, faithful, and youthful fanbases of each, the two growing movements were bound to eventually cross paths. And just recently - they did.
On the weekend of November 20, hip-hop worship artist Eddy “Rawsrvnt” Puyol was invited to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the final race of the Sprint Cup Series where he performed and led chapel, met NASCAR driver Michael McDowell, and even got to sit in the driver’s seat of McDowell’s #66 Toyota Camry (a rare honor that was apparently the talk of the track.)
It all started earlier this year, when Rawsrvnt was waiting on a flight to Jamaica to film a music video and killing time by reading his Twitter feed on his iPhone. A fan sent him an “at reply retweet” that mentioned McDowell had selected Raw’s song “On Fire” as his theme music for an upcoming race.
“I was both shocked and honored,” Puyol said. “I have to admit I hadn’t followed NASCAR that closely before, but to know that their massive audience would hear my lyrics about being ‘on fire’ for Jesus before Michael hit his gas pedal was very encouraging.”
Puyol and McDowell began to exchange notes of mutual appreciation via Twitter which eventually led to more offline conversations about faith and the fast lane. McDowell said he was an outspoken Christian who had been hipped to the “On Fire” song through Billy Mauldin, the president and CEO, of Motor Racing Outreach (MRO.)
“One evening I was home just looking around in iTunes for something new. I like cutting-edge music, stuff you usually will not hear on Christian radio. I also know when a song or a musician stirs my spirit. As soon as I heard ‘On Fire’ I was hooked,” Mauldin recalled.
“I am a 47 year-old father and still very young at heart so not only does this music appeal to me, but then I can introduce it to my children. I am always finding new stuff for them. I am also quick to share music I like with others. This is where the NASCAR connection comes in.”
Every year at the fall race at the Bristol Motor Speedway the drivers are introduced with a theme song. Fans love it and the drivers get a kick out of picking songs that reflect their personality or persona as racers.
About two weeks before that race, McDowell and Mauldin were flying back from Montreal with the Joe Gibbs Racing teams. Mauldin asked McDowell if he had picked his song for Bristol. He replied that he had not, but needed to.
“I told him I had a song he needed to check out,” Mauldin said. “So I handed him my headphones and started ‘On Fire.’ Immediately a great big grin came across his face and he said ‘That’s it!’ The rest is history.”
Rawsrvnt singing during the Motor Racing Outreach chapel service before the Homestead-Miami race
Photo courtesy of Rawsrvnt
At the Miami event, Rawsrvnt participated in the MRO’s pre-race chapel service where he performed and shared his personal story of redemption through Christ. He sung his popular Black Eyed Peas/Hillsong United “I Gotta Feeling/Take It All” mashup and a remixed version of “On Fire” that included a new reference to the NASCAR community.
Afterwards, he handed out over 1,000 copies of his Grammy-nominated No Ordinary Love album and followed Michael McDowell to the track for the pre-race prayer.
“Michael leaned over to me and said this is one of the few sports where you’ll see and hear them so specifically and boldly mention Jesus’ name,” Puyol said. “I told him I thought it was cool that NASCAR is all about representing the faith, family, and pride in our country.”
Looking back, Rawsrvnt said he feels like this story perfectly illustrates how God’s Kingdom operates.
“It’s really all about being faithful over the small things and allowing Him to orchestrate the meetings, events, and elevations that He wants – not us!
“Who would have imagined that one man’s random search on iTunes would lead to me being able to talk about Jesus through my music to a crowd of over 150,000 race car fans?”
Only those who believe in a God as big as ours.