American Idol winner Laine Hardy was the latest artist to virtually perform the national anthem ahead of a NASCAR race this year, singing before the start of the NASCAR Cup Series Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday. The 19-year-old performed an acapella rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" outside in his home state of Louisiana, his hand over his heart as he sang while wearing a NASCAR t-shirt.
"I can't believe I’m getting to sing the National Anthem before a NASCAR race," Hardy said in a press release ahead of the race. "Although I can’t be there in person during this time, I'm definitely looking forward to future races." NASCAR races are currently taking place without fans in attendance due to the coronavirus after the sport took a short break when the pandemic began. Driver Kevin Harvick came in first during Sunday's race followed by Denny Hamlin.
Hardy's performance came around a month and a half after he revealed that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19. "This wasn't what I expected on the first day of summer," he wrote in a message to fans on his Instagram Story and Facebook page at the time. "My doctor confirmed I have Coronavirus, but my symptoms are mild and I'm home recovering in quarantine." Hardy concluded his message by encouraging his fans to " stay safe & healthy!"
In an email to The Advocate in July, Hardy wrote: "I am lucky to be feeling better and want everyone to stay safe and healthy out there. It is more important now than ever for younger people to step up. Thanks for all the well wishes from my own hometown community and beyond." In April, Hardy told PopCulture.com that he was spending his quarantine at home in Livingston, Louisiana, "just hanging out with friends, fishing and just building random things up out of the shop." He added that "it's nice downtime, but I miss the road and miss playing to my fans."
Hardy won Season 17 of American Idol in 2019 and released three singles, "Ground I Grew Up On," "Let There Be Country" and "Tiny Town," this year, the former of which reflects Hardy's own upbringing in Louisiana. "That song, when I listen to it, I think of some memories I have growing up," he said. "Like running across the driveway barefooted on limestone and just getting callouses on the bottom of my feet, climbing trees, playing hide and seek at night, and accidentally setting woods on fire." "I don't recommend doing that, that was an accident," he clarified with a laugh, adding, "We were mostly outside growing up and that's what I think of, just the dirt and stuff, getting muddy and riding four-wheelers."