Ranking the Best TV Cameos by NASCAR Stars
It's a kick when we see our favorite NASCAR stars grace our favorite television shows when we least expect it. While sometimes it may be an honest cameo as themselves, every once in a while we're treated to a role with substance, a la Carl Edwards as Agent Jim Hill in FOX's 24 or Danica Patrick's Liza Gray on CBS's CSI:NY.
Along with some of their best voice cameos, here are the best television cameos among NASCAR stars. They may not be ready for their Emmy Awards any time soon, but they were entertaining all the same.
10. Jeff Burton ('One Tree Hill')
It takes a special kind of tolerance to watch teen dramas on the CW, but when Jeff Burton made a cameo on a NASCAR-themed episode of One Tree Hill, it made the viewing a bit easier. Granted, it was a bit odd seeing a cagey veteran like Burton sharing the screen with young stars Chad Michael Murray and James Lafferty, but it only makes sense considering the show takes place in North Carolina.
Burton's role is minor, as Murray and Lafferty are on a racing trip when an accident puts Lafferty's character in a coma. It leads to an "It's a Wonderful Life" episode for Lafferty. Still, props to Burton for stepping up to the plate in a sappy teenage drama.
9. Jamie McMurray ('The West Wing')
During the 2005 season, viewers of NBC's political drama The West Wing were in for a pleasant surprise as NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray made a cameo on the show. McMurray, who is no stranger to the drama scene, played himself in the episode.
When the First Lady of the United States (played by Stockard Channing) makes a trip to Martinsville Speedway (not the first place you'd expect the First Lady to visit, but a wise choice no doubt), she witnesses McMurray pilot his No. 42 Dodge to Victory Lane.
Capped off with a visit to McMurray's crew in the Winner's Circle, the First Lady receives a peck on the cheek from McMurray. The show did a fantastic job recreating the Martinsville Victory Lane, and the show was the first of many that saw McMurray make a cameo.
8. Danica Patrick ('CSI:NY')
In early 2010, when the stock car world was getting ready for Danica Patrick's debut at Daytona, the rest of the world watched as she made her acting debut on CSI:NY as Formula One star Liza Gray. Gray is named a suspect when officials suspect foul play in the death of F1 driver Davi Santos (portrayed by Antonio Sabato Jr.) during an exhibition race set in downtown New York City.
Patrick's character is ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing, and Patrick did a pretty good job delivering her lines with the right sort of aggression. Of course, with her temper, she didn't really have to dig deep, did she?
7. Dale Earnhardt Sr. ('King of the Hill')
King of the Hill was an animated comedy on FOX that aired from 1997 to 2010. The show, centered in suburban Texas, found comedy in aspects of everyday life and became a success soon after it came out.
Several stars had one-off spots on the show, including Dale Earnhardt, who played himself in an episode that aired shortly after his Daytona 500 win in 1998. When main character Hank Hill and his friends and family take a trip to fictional Arlen Speedway, the gang runs into Earnhardt after he unloads his black No. 3 Chevrolet.
Bill (voiced by Stephen Root) takes Earnhardt's "Intimidator" persona to heart and immediately hides while Boomhauer (voiced by series creator Mike Judge) attempts to engage Earnhardt in small talk. Instead, Earnhardt echoes a sentiment uttered by Hank's dimwitted son Bobby regarding a display rope:
"Man, this rope sure is soft and pretty. I noticed it when we were unloading my car."
Somehow, a mundane line sounded so much funnier when uttered by Earnhardt.
6. Kyle Busch ('Anger Management')
Although Kyle Busch is more like the David Lee Roth of NASCAR these days, at his peak he was more like Charlie Sheen. With a one-race suspension in November 2011 after deliberately wrecking Ron Hornaday at Texas Motor Speedway and a fine after being caught allegedly going 128 mph in a 45-mph zone, it was safe to say he needed help.
Who better to help him than Charlie Sheen?
Wait...what? You mean the rock star from Mars? The "#Winning" warlock? The actor who infamously bashed Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre before departing the show?
Yes, that Charlie Sheen.
Sheen, who is enjoying a career resurgence on FX as therapist Charlie Goodson in Anger Management, saw Busch in his on-screen office as the driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota sought help for his anger issues. Busch's performance lampooned his real-life reputation as a hothead competitor, but it is safe to say that without his surliness, he wouldn't be as big as he is today.
5. Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya ('Annoying Orange')
Annoying Orange is a Cartoon Network series centered around a group of sentient fruits and vegetables, with its hero being the titular Annoying Orange. While the show is...well...annoying, there have been some high-profile guest appearances from stars such as Dave Grohl, Slash, Olivia Munn and Patton Oswalt.
However, the series gave NASCAR a nod with an "Orange Julius Caesar" skit, which placed the main characters in the middle of a "NAS-CHAR" chariot race in ancient Rome. The chariots were piloted by none other than Juan Pablo Montoya (as a pear) and Carl Edwards (as a submarine sandwich in a not-so-subtle nod to his Subway sponsorship).
Despite trash talk from Edwards and contact from Montoya (if you call a buzz saw to the tires "contact"), Orange and his gang inadvertently win the race while Edwards and Montoya crash into the flour barrier lining the arena's walls. Unfortunately, the apples powering their chariots weren't able to make it back to the pits.
4. Jeff Gordon ('Saturday Night Live')
When most of us were first introduced to Jeff Gordon, we saw the ultimate "Heroic Square." He was the square-jawed, goody two-shoes of the American stock car circuit. Yet following a shocking 2002 season in which he and his wife Brooke split due to alleged marital misconduct on Gordon's behalf (with a Playboy model no less), we saw a looser, goofier Gordon.
Nowhere was this more evident when he became the first NASCAR driver to host Saturday Night Live on NBC. Despite the obvious cross-promotion by NBC, since it also aired NASCAR events at the time, it was a chance for NASCAR to reach other audiences that it otherwise had little access to.
You could tell Gordon had fun with the experience, from sporting a mullet and a handlebar mustache to playing an animal handler and administering a beating to "Gary Busey." He wasn't a Christopher Walken-type host or a John Goodman-type host, but he still did pretty well.
3. Carl Edwards ('24')
Those who watched FOX's 24 were acquainted with the fact that Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland) was one of the baddest men on the planet. Those who watched 24 and were NASCAR fans in early 2006 were also acquainted with the fact that Carl Edwards is one of the baddest men behind the wheel...and in Homeland Security.
In a break from his usual racing-themed appearances, Edwards portrayed Department of Homeland Security Agent Jim Hill. Although Hill's appearance was a small one, it was a memorable one as the agent was widely known in intelligence circles.
The episode would have been better had Edwards had a few action scenes, though. After smacking around some terrorists, he could have capped it off with a back flip. What a missed opportunity!
2. Tony Stewart ('Tooned')
Most NASCAR fans are probably not familiar with Sky Sports F1's animated series Tooned, which aired prior to the start of each Formula One race and was produced by McLaren. The series discusses various aspects of racing in a comedic setting.
In 2013, due to a partnership with Mobil 1, Tooned produced six special episodes to explain the history of oil and lubricants in racing. Series regulars Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were used as demonstrators along with none other than Tony Stewart.
Stewart's character Smoke steals the show with antics that are all too typical of Stewart. It's safe to say we need to see more animated Tonius Maximus...er, Tony Stewart.
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart ('The Cleveland Show')
Although The Cleveland Show is set in fictional Stoolbend, Va., the show has never really reached out to a NASCAR audience. Series creator Seth MacFarlane is more well known for his magnum opus Family Guy, which takes an approach on topics that are usually contrary to a typical NASCAR fan's views.
Yet The Cleveland Show gave NASCAR a nod in its episode "The Hangover: Part Tubbs," when main character Cleveland Brown and his family and friends take a trip to Richmond International Raceway for a NASCAR Sprint Cup event.
During the event, Cleveland's wife Donna Tubbs, who is running for school board, realizes she has a debate in an hour. Cleveland does the only thing he can think of and throws a "caution" that wipes out the entire field with the exception of Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior and Stewart race to take Cleveland and Donna back to Stoolbend, leaving Kahne at the track. Kahne, who plays a dimwitted version of himself, realizes he can win the race by driving sensibly. The wheels literally fall off that plan not a few feet afterward.
This was a terrific episode and an affirmation of sorts for NASCAR, and not just from the cross-promotion standpoint. MacFarlane's shows are popular among the college-age demographic, and this was a way to put NASCAR out there where prospective fans could be reached.
Follow Joseph on Twitter: @ThatSheltonGuy
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