DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - "America's most patriotic rock band" performed America's most patriotic song at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday.
And the reviews were mixed.
Madison Rising's rendition of the national anthem had a few drivers chuckling and some fans shaking their heads before the Nationwide Series season opener.
"Well, I wish they would just sing the damn song," driver Brad Keselowski said after the race, which Regan Smith won by a few feet. "That is my reaction."
The band's version of "The Star Spangled Banner," which has more than 5 million views on YouTube, was shortened for television purposes. Nonetheless, the guitar-heavy interpretation seemed to catch NASCAR off guard. Keselowski and Danica Patrick had puzzled looks on their faces near the end of it.
"Yes, we took some liberties," lead singer Dave Bray said before the performance. "But we were already taking some liberties with it musically and melodically. We wanted to make it a rock song people could sing and enjoy. The reverence is still there, but it has sort of taken on the death march in a way. It's very sullen and sung in a very sullen way. We thought it should be more of a celebratory rock anthem."
Bray said the full version lasts about 4 minutes. The band, which performed a pre-race concert before the 2013 Nationwide finale in Homestead, agreed to cut it in half for the race.
"We knew it would be a door closer for us if it wasn't accepted by NASCAR," Bray said.
Track President Joie Chitwood III defended his decision to bring in Madison Rising.
"They've played that rendition in the 2012 and 2013 Military Bowls," Chitwood said. "They've gotten very positive reviews socially and digitally in terms of that rendition. The fact that they played the Military Bowl was pretty impressive, but our fans are very opinionated and they make sure that they comment, and that's their right.
"We'll listen to them, but at the end of the day, the band's got a pretty good following and they've done some really nice renditions at some very patriotic sporting events."