“Heck no I’m not happy with second,” Chase Rice said the day after his runner-up finish on “Survivor” aired last month.
Not that anybody should be, but you have to understand–Rice came from a place where losing just doesn’t exist.
Rice began taping the show in June after taking a leave of absence from Hendrick Motorsports, where he was working as a developmental pit crew member for five-time defending Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson. (Ironically, one of his “Survivor” foes was former NFL coach Jimmy Johnson.) Rice earned a championship ring in 2009, and most recently was a jackman for Ryan Newman in the Nationwide Series.
The 25-year-old Rice, a former University of North Carolina linebacker, was hampered by injuries late in his career. When it became clear the NFL wasn’t an option after his senior season in 2008, he got a call from Chris Burkey, a former UNC assistant who had become a pit crew trainer/recruiter for Hendrick Motorsports. Rice, a lifelong NASCAR fan, jumped at the opportunity.
“The cool part is, possibly all five of the guys I worked with are going to be on Jimmie’s crew next year,” said Rice, who wore a Hendrick Motorsports hat throughout his “Survivor” stint. “They’re all up there and fighting for a spot on Jimmie’s car, and I would be, too…. But for now I’m stepping back from NASCAR.”
Rice is moving on to his next challenge–conquering Music Row.
While still playing at UNC, Rice started writing songs to honor his father Dan, who died of cancer in 2008. A style soon developed, mirroring a new breed who found fame singing classic country balanced with just enough of a rock influence.
“Garth Brooks was my No. 1 all-time favorite,” Rice said. “But now I really like what the younger guys are doing, the Jason Aldeans, the Eric Churches, that’s the sound that I like and that’s the sound I’m going for, too.”
The result of all that inspiration was his first album, “Friday Nights & Sunday Mornings,” which Rice admits he recorded ‘before I really knew what I was doing.” NASCAR and “Survivor” followed, and Rice just laughed when asked about getting into so many things so quickly.
“I must be doing something right and God is blessing me,” Rice said. “It’s been awesome. I’ve been doing [music] since I was a junior in college. I was going back and forth to Nashville, and nobody really knew that ’cause I wasn’t trying to play it up during [Survivor].”
That changed during the series finale, when he performed “Buzz Back,” part of a five-track EP that will be released shortly. Rice said he’s so competitive that he may never be satisfied, but the reaction from his national singing debut has him encouraged.
“Actually, I found out ["Friday Nights & Sunday Mornings"] is No. 32 on the iTunes country music chart,” Rice said just after the finale. “So that’s pretty dang cool.”