3 Doors Down guitarist jams on sports

Loud and from the South, a marriage between 3 Doors Down and NASCAR was only natural.

The rock group from Mississippi and NASCAR have shared a strong bond in recent years, from performances at a number of tracks to the band's name appearing on cars driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart. In fact, the two drivers starred in 3 Doors Down's 2003 music video for "The Road I'm On," racing customized SUVs through empty city streets.

Fresh off the release of its new album, "Time of My Life," the band's music will be a staple of ESPN's NASCAR coverage the remainder of the season. And the two have joined forces for 3 Doors Down's Time of My Life Sweepstakes to give one fan and three friends the chance to meet the band and receive VIP backstage treatment at the band's Nov. 20 show at the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, Miss.

The Life caught up with guitarist Chris Henderson to talk about the contest and sports in general, from being the last band to play in old Yankee Stadium to a father's final wish.

The Life: What is it about NASCAR that appeals to you guys so much? Besides the obvious of being from the South.

Chris Henderson: When it started, we were all kind of closet fans of NASCAR, but our tour manager is from Charlotte. He's a huge NASCAR fan. So when we wrote the song, "The Road I'm On," we decided to get some NASCAR drivers for it. I didn't really know all about NASCAR until that video.

Dale and Tony were real cool and we were just talking about all sorts of stuff. We started meeting some more people associated with the sport, crews and drivers, and just fell in love with the whole camaraderie and family atmosphere we saw. Deep down inside, we're all family guys and we're from the South. We gravitated naturally to it. I'm really a fan now, where before I didn't know much about it.

The Life: Dale has been a big supporter of yours, what do you think it will take for him to win a race again?

Henderson: I'm a Dale fan. I love all the drivers really, but Dale is my friend, so it's hard for me to say I'm not a Dale fan. I think for him to win a race he just has to kind of find his groove. It has been hard for him, and I don't know why. Maybe it's something with his team. He went through a lot of changes the last few years, and that has to be tough, especially being such a public figure. I think he just has to find his groove, and when he does it, he's going to do it like he did before. The fans are waiting. I'm definitely waiting.

The Life: Were you watching when he ran out of gas right before the finish line in Charlotte two months ago?

Henderson: Yeah, that was heartbreaking, man. I was really rooting for him. Like I said, he has to find his groove. But that would have been important for momentum had he won that race.

The Life: 3 Doors Down is partnered with ESPN for the "Time of Your Life" contest where a fan gets the chance to meet you guys, enjoy a live show, coinciding with the final NASCAR Chase race. Are you guys excited about the contest, and the chance to give fans the opportunity to spend some time with you guys especially in your back yard?

Henderson: Absolutely. This is just a fun place to watch us play. People down here are crazy for us. It would be nice especially if the person who won isn't from Mississippi. It would be a treat to see 3 Doors Down in Mississippi.

The Life: I saw you guys perform at Carb Day at the Indianapolis 500 a few years ago, and you've played "Monday Night Football," an NFL playoff game, NHL All-Star Weekend and the Home Run Derby in old Yankee Stadium among others, what's that like to perform at sporting events like those?

Henderson: It really depends on what we're doing. At halftime there are so many people, especially at a football game. We've played shows like that before in front of 80,000-plus, but it's different because you're so far away playing in the middle of the field. It's 100 feet to the nearest person and they're getting the sound from the PA system which isn't generally set up for music. But it's always a lot of fun. You get to meet tons of people and get to see the game from different points of view doing press and going to different points of the stadium. It's really cool.

The Life: What was your favorite experience?

Henderson: Yankee Stadium was really cool. That was really cool to be the last band to play there. It was an honor for us. That was probably the coolest thing I've done. Just to be in that place. I had been to a few games there in my lifetime, but to be on that field on second base looking up at the stands where amazing players had played in that stadium, that was pretty cool. That was a good experience.

The Life: I understand you guys are big New Orleans Saints fans.

Henderson: Oh, yeah. I've got the fleur-de-lis tattooed on the inside of my right forearm.

The Life: What would you have done without a season of pro football?

Henderson: I guess watch more SEC football.

The Life: You guys are from deep inside SEC country, so who do you root for?

Henderson: I'm actually an LSU fan. I grew up 80 miles from LSU and being a Saints fan my whole life it was kind of a natural progression. I tried to root for Mississippi State a little bit, but I'm just not into that team for whatever reason. It's not against the law, so I'm OK with it. I love LSU. [Guitarist Matt Roberts] is a big Florida Gators fan and [drummer Greg Upchurch] likes Oklahoma, but it's OK because Greg is also a huge Saints fan. He'll tell you he's on injured reserve.

The Life: So it helps to have that common fandom ground then?

Henderson: Yeah, it really helps on Sunday. Everyone is on common ground. Actually, I have a crazy Saints story for you. My daddy was a huge Saints fan but died of lung cancer. His last days alive the family was trying to spend as much time with him as possible, and the doctor gave him some pain medication and said he's not going to eat or drink anymore, his eyes are going to close and that he's basically going to pass on in 12 hours after receiving this medication.

He was pretty much right. I was sitting with him in the bedroom and about four hours before he passed away he hadn't said a word and wasn't coherent. Sitting right beside him, all of the sudden he opened up his eyes, and said, "Make me a promise, never root for anyone but the Saints." That's the last thing the man said to me before he died. It's kind of strange. I was like, "Really, Pop? Can't root for anyone else?" But he said it. That's his dying wish, so I'll always be a Saints fan. Though I was already anyways.

The Life: That's some devotion to the cause.

Henderson: Yeah, pretty crazy.

The Life: If you could have anything waiting for you at Victory Lane, what would it be?

Henderson: You know what, the last race I was at, I forget what they call them, but these girls they dress up in these suits. I saw the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my entire life, can't even explain how gorgeous she was. I don't know her name, but she was taking pictures of us with an iPad or something while we were playing. I was so sidetracked by how gorgeous she was, I couldn't even read what was on her suit. I didn't even get her name. If I could figure that out, that's what I would want in Victory Lane. Maybe make a YouTube video of asking her out.

The Life: If you could have a "Time of Your Life" sports experience what would it be?

Henderson: I'd like to go and see the Super Bowl. I've been scheduled to go three or four times in the past with the band, but things end up happening and we can't go. If we can go to the game, it might be the greatest moment of my life, especially if the Saints are in it and win. I've been to lots of major sporting events but never the Super Bowl.

The Life: You ever been taken for a ride in a NASCAR car?

Henderson: Oh, yeah, it's crazy. I just did a pace car ride the other day, and that son of a bitch must have been going 120 miles per hour on that track and you can smell the tire, you can feel the car on the turns. We were stretching the car to the limit. I thought we were going to hit the wall a couple times.

The Life: Can you talk a little bit about The Better Life Foundation?

Henderson: Sure. This will be the eighth charity show since we established the foundation. At a charity show a while back, we played for free and we didn't get paid. The place sold out and they made tons of money, but none of the money made it to charity at the end of day. We were perturbed by that. We went down there, played, everyone donated their time, and the charity only got something like 50 cents out of each ticket. All the money went to the other crap.

So we started our charity with the notion of a dollar in, a dollar out. At the start everyone who worked was a volunteer, but it has grown to the point where we actually do have some employees where we have to pay them something. We take the money that we make through donations and The Better Life Foundation show and typically give it to women's and children's charities because those are the ones that are overlooked. That's how it started and it's snowballed and turned into what it is now.

The Life: I understand some athletes have helped out with donating some items for auction.

Henderson: Definitely. It's really cool and nice when other people get involved. Dale has been great, Brett Favre always donates, and other musicians come in and play for free. It's been really cool.

Matthew Glenesk is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis.