12 Best (and Strangest) Racing-Related Songs of All Time
March is a great month for motor racing. By the end of the month, the racing season will have officially begun for all the major championships – IndyCar, NASCAR, Formula 1, IMSA SportsCar, the list goes on. To celebrate the new year of racing ahead, we’ve compiled some of the greatest songs that either directly reference professional racing or were used famously for network intros.
So, put some headphones on and get listening to some of the best, and strangest, racing songs of all time.
1. George Harrison – “Faster”
Perhaps the greatest motorsport-related song on this list, this upbeat rocker from 1979 was dedicated by the Beatle to “the Entire Formula One Circus” and as a memorial to “Super Swede” Ronnie Peterson, who was killed during the ’78 Italian Grand Prix.
It’s no surprise George Harrison penned this track – he was a lifelong motorsport fan, especially of F1 where he attended numerous races and befriended many of the drivers (he even helped fund Damon Hill’s racing career).
This song was released as a single for benefit of the Gunnar Nilsson Fund – started after Swedish driver Nilsson’s battle with cancer. The single itself was available as a fantastic limited-edition picture vinyl record (the first Beatle to release a picture disc), that features the faces of Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi and Jody Scheckter.
And the F1 fun doesn’t stop there. The music video is a must-watch for racing fans as it features a compilation of 70s F1 action, with some footage actually shot by Harrison himself at the ‘79 Brazilian and Monaco GPs. Plus, there’s George Harrison playing guitar in the back of a limo chauffeured by Jackie Stewart – you can’t ask for anything more!
2. Mark Knopfler – “Speedway at Nazareth”
Mark Knopfler, the chief singer/songwriter and lead guitarist behind Dire Straits, is a massive racing and automotive enthusiast. He also happens to be friends with ex-F1/IndyCar driver Stefan Johansson since they met at the Austrian GP in ‘86. Knopfler wrote this song in the early 1990s after conversations with Johansson and the song details the trials and tribulations of a Champ Car driver, while naming many of the tracks featured during the golden CART years: Phoenix, Long Beach, Indy, Milwaukee, Belle Isle, Portland, Ontario, Mid-Ohio, Toronto, Road America, Monterey, and, you guessed it, Nazareth.
3. EBC Racing Team – “Silver Arrows (Racing On) – Rock & Racing Edition”
Okay, here’s where things get a little different. EBC Racing team is comprised of American rock and blues singer/songwriter Tony Carey, German rock queen Ela, and Englishman J.R. Blackmore, son of Ritchie Blackmore, the guitar legend from Deep Purple and Rainbow. Carey was so excited about the return of a factory Mercedes-Benz F1 team in 2010, and the comeback of Michael Schumacher, that they wrote this hair-metal ode to the racing history of Mercedes-Benz. Where else can you hear someone belt about Rudolf Caracciola and Juan Manuel Fangio over heavy distorted guitar?
4. DJ Visage – “Formula 01 – Monte Carlo Radio Mix”
Known simply as “The Schumacher song” by many, this quintessential 90s Euro-electronica song features a loop of an F1 engine revving, with the occasional F1 drive-by sound, while someone German says from time to time, “SCHUMACHER!”. The best parts are the racing sounds, as it reminds us that we still desperately miss the sound of a V10 F1 engine.
5. Paul Stewart feat. Eric Clapton – “Fly Free (A Tribute to Sir Jackie Stewart)”
While it may not feature the greatest songwriting or vocals you’ve ever heard, you can’t help but be touched by this racing song written by Sir Jackie’s son, Paul, for his dad’s 70th birthday in 2009. The song is a tribute to both his father and his mother, Helen, and features family friend Eric Clapton on the solo. Supposedly, Sir Jackie didn’t even realize his son could write a song, making this surprise birthday gift even more memorable for the Flying Scot.
6. The Charlie Daniels Band – “The Intimidator”
The man who brought us “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” wrote this NASCAR racing song in 2001 as a tribute to the one and only Dale Earnhardt, “The Intimidator”, after the legend was killed earlier that year. The song features the following lyrics, “Darrell’s passing Martin, and Jeff just took the lead/He’s burning up the track but look out, here comes Number 3”. Daniels’ authentic southern rock tribute is a fitting one for one of NASCAR’s all-time greatest.
7. Alabama – “Five O’Clock 500”
Southern rock/country band Alabama released “Five O’Clock 500” in 1998 as a new song on their greatest hits compilation, For the Record. This racing song is a humorous take on a race fan’s daily commute back home from work at five o’clock. The chorus is as follows:
It’s that five o’clock 500 and I run it every day / Pick-up trucks, cars and buses all in my way / We’ve got Darrell, we’ve got Dale, Richard, Mark, Rusty and Jeff / Oh, the boss just dropped the green we’re on our way / It’s that five o’clock 500 every day
It’s definitely worth a listen, and I think many of us racing fans can relate to the fantasy while
racing driving home every day.
8. Roupa Nova – “Tema da Vitória”
This Brazilian instrumental was composed specifically for Brazilian network Rede Globo as the victory song for any driver who won the Brazilian GP. It was first played after the victory of Nelson Piquet at the ’83 race. In ’86, the song was used anytime a Brazilian driver won an F1 race or the championship. As a result, it was played for all of Ayrton Senna’s wins and three championships in ’88, ’90 and ’91, becoming synonymous with the driver for many Brazilian racing fans. This racing song was last played in 2009, when Rubens Barrichello won the European GP, marking the 100th victory for a Brazilian in Formula One history.
9. Mark Knopfler – “The Car Was the One”
Mark Knopfler wrote not just one, but TWO songs inspired by his love of motor racing. The lyrics to this racing song were lifted almost word-for-word from Mark Donohue’s classic autobiography, The Unfair Advantage. The song, released in 2009, is about Donohue’s desperation for a race-winning sports car (a Cobra in this case), which reminded Knopfler of his own hunger for success while he was a young musician.
10. Fleetwood Mac – “The Chain”
This song is one of Fleetwood Mac’s most successful, largely due in part to its usage as the theme song to BBC’s F1 content from ’78 till ’97, and from 2011 on. Granted, the only part of the song used in the theme is the ending bass line and wailing guitars, but if you’ve watched F1 on the BBC, it’s impossible not to think about the sport whenever this song plays. In fact, we wish Sky F1 would just adopt it already.
11. Alistair Griffin – “Just Drive”
This song was used as the theme to Sky Sport’s Formula 1 coverage throughout the 2010s. While not as grand as “The Chain”, this rock song has become the new anthem to remind listeners of F1 anytime they hear it. If you’re used to Sky’s coverage, you can’t help but think of Crofty’s voice and all the wonderful highlights that are played to this music.
12. Brian Tyler – Formula 1 Theme
DOOO DO DO DOOO DO DO DO DOOOO! From the guy who composed scores for Hollywood blockbuster franchises like Transformers, The Expendables, Iron Man, and The Avengers, came F1’s theme song. Introduced in 2018 as part of Liberty’s rebranding of the sport, this racing song has already become an emotional one for many of its fans. It’s played before every TV broadcast, after each race as drivers pull into Winner’s Circle, and in our minds when we’re overtaking cars on the freeway.
“NASCAR: HOTTER THAN ASPHALT” Album
Released in 1996 and featuring songs from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Waylon Jennings, Alabama, Tanya Tucker, and Hank Williams Jr, among others, this 32-minute, 11-song album was an album ode to NASCAR by some of country’s biggest stars. Features such songs as “White Knuckle Ride”, “One Foot on The Pedal”, and “You Gotta Wanna Win”. Of course, you can’t go racing without hearing the national anthem first – and so “The Star-Spangled Banner” is the first track (followed by a woman in a thick southern accent seductively saying, “Gentleman, start your engines” – naturally).
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