The voice on the other end of the phone is unexpected.
It’s unexpected if you’ve gone the past 15 years having only heard the singing voice of Brad Arnold, which will be on display as part of today’s NASCAR Chase Fest today in Chicago.
His speaking voice is a thick, Southern number, bred in his hometown of Escatawpa, Miss.
The town is 40 minutes east of Biloxi, where the lead singer and last remaining founding member of 3 Doors Down recalls hearing the band’s first hit single, “Kryptonite,” play on local station 97.9 WCPR-FM for the first time.
Arnold, 36, also remembers the first time the band heard the song outside its home state, riding in a van on the way to a gig in Albany, Ga.
Arnold swears “we about tipped that van over” during a phone interview with NASCAR Talk.
“Kryptonite” was the first track on the band’s debut 2000 album “The Better Life” and it would be the No. 1 song on Billboard’s U.S. Mainstream Rock chart for more than two months.
Fifteen years later, the band is in the final stages of preparing for the release of its sixth studio album, “Us and the Night,” at the end of 2015 or beginning of 2016. It will be its first album since “Time of My Life” was released in 2011.
“Six months ago I realized it had been four years,” Arnold said.
Between those points, 3 Doors Down has maintained a steady relationship with NASCAR. Arnold first visited a NASCAR track around 2003 when took in a race at Martinsville Speedway. In the years since, 3 Doors Down has put on shows at the 2005 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, multiple races at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the spring race at Texas in 2011.
The band’s biggest plunge into the sport came in March 2003 on a film set in Concord, N.C.
As part of its sophomore album, “Away from the Sun,” the band recruited Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart, then the defending Sprint Cup champion, for roles in the music video for “The Road I’m On.”
Arnold remembers sitting in a trailer between takes talking with Earnhardt and Stewart. The conversation turned to 3 Doors Down possibly sponsoring one of Earnhardt’s cars. At one point, Stewart said if the band sponsored the car, he would drive it.
The conversation came to fruition later that year on Aug. 13 when Stewart, driving in his first Busch Series (Xfinity) race since 1998, piloted Earnhardt’ No. 8 Chevrolet in the Cabela’s 250 at Michigan International Speedway.
The orange and black car had the band members on the hood and Arnold on the rear fenders.
Stewart led 86 laps, but finished 11th. Arnold laments that if it weren’t for the race ending at 110 laps due to rain, the car would have had a chance to win.
Two years later, the band and Earnhardt would be back together for a Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway with the band’s logo on the car’s tail end. Earnhardt would finish 20th in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400.
In addition to 3 Doors Down, NASCAR Chase Fest will feature appearances and autograph sessions from all 16 drivers competing in the first round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Fans in attendance will be treated to food from renowned Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, beverages from Coors Light (with proper ID), attractions such as the Toyota Ferris Wheel and NASCAR on NBC Sports Bumper Cars, activations from event sponsor Sprint, including an appearance by Miss Sprint Cup and the Sprint Cup Series Trophy, and another live musical performance by a Chicago-based country cover band, the Suburban Cowboys.