When her agent pitches a new project, Danica Patrick usually makes her decisions on the spot — yes or no — with little hesitation. When the producers of the American Country Awards called and asked if she'd co-host the show, the NASCAR driver took her foot off the gas pedal.
"This is one of the first things where I said, 'You know, let me think about that,'" Patrick said. "I just was nervous about doing it, and I kind of wanted to get a few people's opinion: Do you think I can handle this? But they made me feel really comfortable. A few months ago I met with the producers and they said it's going to be easy and you're going to have fun with it. Hopefully they're right."
Patrick will find out when she co-hosts the live Fox broadcast (8 p.m. EST) Tuesday night in Las Vegas with Trace Adkins. Taylor Swift leads all nominees with eight, while Blake Shelton and Florida Georgia Line are up for seven apiece during the fourth annual awards show.
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Patrick knows all these names after an 18-month crash course in country music that's left her with the ability to name-check just about everybody in the genre. She says she never really gave country a chance growing up in northern Illinois with an avowed rock 'n' roll fan for a dad. But Miranda Lambert changed all that.
Lambert invited Patrick to appear in the 2012 video for her hit "Fastest Girl in Town." It sounded like fun so Patrick signed up. But when she arrived, she was embarrassed to admit she wasn't familiar with Lambert's music.
"So I felt bad and I was like, 'I should listen to some of her music,' so I got her new album and got her Pistol Annies album, and I was like, 'Man, I think I like country music,'" Patrick said in a phone interview. "I was very ignorant about it, but now I know everything on the radio. I used to listen to more sort of pop, your Katy Perry, (pop) chart music. But now I look at the country top 20 and I know every single one and I know maybe two of them on the Top 20 pop chart. I would definitely say I've transitioned over."
She went on to pass a pop quiz on her favorites, listing Lambert's husband, Shelton, Jason Aldean, Thomas Rhett, The Band Perry, Jake Owen and Lady Antebellum.
Patrick is trying something new in television as well. Long a popular personality and spokeswoman, the driver has done thousands of hours of interviews and commercial shots, and even co-hosted "The View," but acknowledges she's got a lot to learn — and precious few practice laps before the show starts.
"I don't think hosting dinner at my house really counts," Patrick said. "I'm looking forward to it, and with a guy like Trace who's done it for a few years and is such a cool, relaxed guy and so well-known and respected in the music industry, and he has a great personality. We're going to have fun."