Vanilla Ice talks NASCAR, Heat, new movie

Suddenly, Vanilla Ice is everywhere again, including the Pocono winner's circle with Joey Logano. Jerome Miron-US Presswire

Vanilla Ice had a meteoric rise, selling more than 13 million copies of his debut album, "To The Extreme."

He faced an equally potent backlash, falling out of favor and recasting himself as a rap-metal artist and a reality TV star alongside other fallen idols on "The Surreal Life."

With a starring role in the new Adam Sandler movie "That's My Boy," Ice has come full circle as "Uncle Vanny," who cruises around in an old-school Mustang 5.0 convertible.

And Rob Van Winkle, as he now prefers to be called, has emerged from the shadow of the Iceman. The post-hype anger has subsided, and instead a friendly, cheerfully corny entertainer is grinding out interviews for the movie and his home-renovation show "The Vanilla Ice Project" on DIY Network.

"I'm a random guy. I shake a hand and make a friend. I don't do egotistical things," Van Winkle says. "I meet everybody. If somebody invites me to their house and they got a drum set close, I'm going to play, man. Let's jam. I don’t care. Get in where you fit in and enjoy the experience."

Decidedly low-maintenance, the man who once cooked MCs like a pound of bacon left ESPN and headed over to the nearby Chili's for some veggie fajitas.

But prior to that, he talked to ESPN Playbook about "That's My Boy," the Miami Heat, and his recent NASCAR adventure, in which he drove the pace car at the Pocono 400.

It was a little surprising to see you in the winner's circle at Pocono with Joey Logano.

Bro, even Joey Logano was like, "This is awesome. I'm in the winner's circle with Vanilla Ice." He shakes my hand, he's laughing. I'm like, "Forget me, I'm with you. I'm at NASCAR!"

What was it like being out on the track?

I drove the pace car, and I drove the movie car. The 5.0 convertible with the rag top down.

Then we got to go in the actual pace car. I did four laps around the track. And on the practice lap before everybody was behind me, I got to do a lap just to get used to the track. And I got on the backstretch and just punched it. It's a Camaro, but they souped it up for NASCAR. So I've got [a Sony PR person] in the back, and he's filming the whole thing, and I just punch it, and lay into it. I get up to about 145 or something, and he's all panicking. "Slow down, man. Slow down." I'm like, "I got a lot of room to go. Come on." But I slowed down.

When I got to do the actual pace car, it was so surreal. Every time I'd come around by the grandstands, the crowd would just stand up. And I'd have goose bumps every time. Three times, we did, before I had to pull off, and let 'em take off. Great race day, man. We thought Earnhardt was going to win it. He was up front the whole time.

You've had a lot of experience racing, from your motocross days. Are you a NASCAR fan?

I'm a huge NASCAR fan, especially now. I was a NASCAR fan before. Now I'm a huge NASCAR fan. That experience was unbelievable. I'll never forget it. It is one of the greatest memories I'll have forever. I got to have lunch with them, went to the drivers' meeting. I met all the drivers, and everybody was just so cool, down to Earth. What a great experience.

I know Earnhardt, actually, from Vegas. I was singing "Ice Ice Baby" at Caesar's Palace, and I got to my second verse, and looked over... [starts rapping] Now that the party is jumping. With the bass kicked in and the ... is that Earnhardt right there?

I forgot my damn lyrics. He knew every one of them, and he was just going off, singing it. I just went over to him, and I got to sing "Ice Ice Baby" with Dale Earnhardt Jr. We hung out afterward, and he was just the greatest guy ever.

You've claimed "The U" since the beginning. What does Miami have to do to get back on top?

They're a great team, in a great place. [They need] not to be under so much scrutiny. That takes the steam out of the team. They just need to get back to the basics, what they were in the '90s, man. They were a dynasty. They were killing it. And in the '80s, too. I think once they get back to the basics and get over all the hype and scrutiny, that they're going to be fine. It's Miami. Who doesn't want to go to Miami? What do you think, they want to go to Cleveland? They've got all the best players in the world. You don't have to pay them, just say "Come to Miami."

Now you're just kicking Cavaliers fans again.

I like Cleveland. I like the Cavaliers. Nothing wrong with Cleveland. I have lots of friends there. But to be honest with you ... Cleveland or Miami? You do the math. It's better than Dallas, too, and I'm from Dallas.

Did you hang around the team back in the early '90s?

I have been known to hang out and party back in the day. I had a weekend that lasted a few years.

Did you ever have any Nevin Shapiro-type dealings?

Never. Never that hardcore. I survived.

You've been known to make some outlandish statements. You're a huge fan of the Miami Heat, and they made some pretty bold claims after landing LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

Boy did they. LeBron came out and said, "Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six." How many did he get to? Seven? Hey... he's in there. Every year since he promised it, he's gotten to the Finals.

I have stuck my foot in my mouth so many times I couldn't tell you. Listen, if you don't talk big game, you never get anywhere. If you don't think big, you don't get big. Some people call it egotistical, some people call it high hopes, some people call it confidence. It's all in how you want to dissect it. I like it. I think that if he's aiming for that, maybe we'll win one. [Laughs] Maybe not seven. But maybe he'll win one or two.

That's how you originally got discovered, right? I remember a story that you showed up at a club and parked in front and wouldn't move your car, and a manager took notice.

That's semi-true. I used to carry an entourage with me everywhere I'd go [in Dallas] from Forest Lane. I'd be drag racing up and down the street. I took out my back seat and put in subwoofers -- Rockford Fosgates -- and I'd roll to these clubs and bring 300, 400 people. So the clubs were loving when I'd show up. The owners would be like, "Can you come to my club tonight and bring all your people?" I'm like, "Really, they want me to be there." I park in the front and some bouncer guy says I need to move. I'm like, "Let's talk to the owner." In fact, let them all in. So it was rock star style. And I was underage and had a fake ID, so it worked out pretty good.

When you were everywhere, when your name was on everything, what's the craziest thing that your name was on?

The board game. I had the Vanilla Ice board game, where you rap. It's like Monopoly but you have to rap and remember verses and words and stuff.

Do you have all that stuff?

My mom has everything. I was going to burn everything. But now I love it all. Love the [Teenage Mutant Ninja] Turtles, love all that stuff. One of these days I'm going to ask my mom for her collection. She's got a whole shrine. It's hilarious.

There's been some discussion that you might have some tie to the new Michael Bay reboot of the "Ninja Turtles" movie. Is that true?

That would be great. You never know, man. Like I said, get in where you fit in. Yesterday's history, tomorrow's a mystery. Wherever I'm at tomorrow, that's where I'll be.

Is that you campaigning for it, or is there actually a chance?

Well, inquiring minds want to know. That's one of those things that I can't give you a straight answer that you're looking for. If it happens, it's awesome. If it doesn't, it's still awesome.