Nearly a quarter of a million people will see Duhamel Cassell — known as DJ Du — perform live by the time the final flag drops at Saturday’s nighttime NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee.
On Friday, the Tucson country DJ performed during NASCAR’s Food City 300 event leading up to the big race. A sellout crowd that could top 170,000 is expected to be on hand Saturday when Cassell opens for Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, who has tiptoed into country music.
Cassell is also set to deejay the music during the driver intros, remixing 43 songs, including a few special requests from drivers like Jeff Gordon. This is Gordon’s final Bristol appearance — he is in his last NASCAR season — so Cassell picked a song by rapper Nelly that mentions Gordon in the lyrics.
The Bristol race is being nationally broadcast live on satellite radio and an NBC cable affiliate. That could put the audience into the millions, which could explain why Cassell was nervous when he arrived at the racetrack Friday morning.
“I don’t know how many baseball stadiums I played with Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line, but as I was rolling up and saw this, I thought, ‘Wow, this is a little bigger than a baseball stadium,’” he said hours before he was to perform for the 120,000 or so expected for the Food City 300.
Cassell, who got his start nearly 20 years deejaying at country night clubs in Phoenix before moving to Tucson, is used to big audiences.
In early 2014, he hit the road with country superstar Aldean’s “Burn It Down” tour. The tour sold out baseball stadiums and arenas throughout the country for much of last year.
Cassell, a New York native who still calls Tucson home, had 15 hours of downtime after the Aldean tour before going on the road for a 25-city trek with country duo Love and Theft.
Over the past year, he has played shows in Las Vegas, Texas, Nashville and Wisconsin, where he was the nightly after-show entertainment at Country Thunder. He also performed at Country Thunder in Florence last April.
But this is undoubtedly the biggest event of his career to date, he said.
“As you can tell by my voice, I’m a little giddy,” he said. “This isn’t just NASCAR and any race; this is Bristol. Daytona and Bristol are the Super Bowls of racing.”
NBC Sports Network will broadcast the race.