BRISTOL, Tenn. - Rednecks are alive and well, and if you need to find out for yourself, come to Bristol Motor Speedway.
So says smiling Southern standup comedian and television personality Jeff Foxworthy, who was signing autographs, posing for pictures with race fans and promoting his Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips snack food brand that sponsored Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at BMS.
Packs of smart phones — some with camouflage jackets — were all trained on Foxworthy, who has made his livelihood on “You might be a redneck” jokes.
“I love these folks,” Foxworthy said of the crowd outside his display at BMS’ Hospitality Village. “They work hard, but they know how to enjoy their life. The cool thing is you see them with their kids and best friends.
"This is a big deal. I love NASCAR, and I’ve been to a bunch of tracks, but this is more than just a race track and more than just a race. This is a special place...TV doesn’t do it justice.”
Foxworthy said BMS’ comparison with the Coliseum in Rome is on the mark.
“A couple years ago, I got to go to Rome with my wife on our 25th anniversary, and this is like the coliseum with people right there on top of you,” he noted. “I’m thrilled to get to do this. It’s weird to see your name on a NASCAR event.”
Foxworthy got into the snack food business after he met Sean McDonough, chief executive officer of the Georgia-based Roswell Food Group.
McDonough was also in the sleep diagnostics business and had been consulting with Foxworthy about his sleep disorder.
“I started a restaurant and bar in Roswell, and I was trying to come up with things at the bar to make people drink more beer,” McDonough said of the evolution of the Grit Chip. “We made our own version of the tortilla chip and added 25 percent grits into the tortilla recipe...They had the most unique crunch and corn flavor.”
McDonough sent Foxworthy a copy of the restaurant menu and Foxworthy asked: What the heck is a Grit Chip?
Three months later, McDonough said the two had a 10-year contract for licensing and branding the product, sold primarily in the South at grocery store chains such as Food City.
“We’re not planning on talking to Wal-Mart any time soon...we’re going to sell everywhere else and then Wal-Mart will come to us,” McDonough insisted.
Foxworthy said the Grit Chips idea initially reminded him of his work on “Shark Tank,” an ABC TV series featuring a panel of entrepreneurs and business executives, called “sharks,” who consider offers from entrepreneurs seeking investments for their business or product.
“I’m literally like rolling my eyes going ‘Oh God here we go, another Shark Tank thing, and I ate one of them and said Dadgum, that’s pretty good,’” Foxworthy said of Grit Chips, which he says tastes “somewhere between a Tostito and a Frito.”
Foxworthy promised he’ll continue to do standup comedy despite currently doing three TV shows. Other Foxworthy ventures include doing an animated feature with Larry the Cable Guy on CMT called “Bounty Hunters” — a takeoff on the “Dog The Bounty Hunter” series. He’s also going to work on CBS’ “American Baking Competition” featuring amateur bakers.
“I’ve been on the road for about 30 years now,” Foxworthy said of his standup comedy tours. “Some people get into it because it’s a launching pad for TV or movies. I’ve always loved standup. I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing that.”
And redneck comedy, Foxworthy said with a grin, does have a future.
“Here’s the deal,” he began. “You’ve heard it said ‘When the nuclear bomb goes off, the survivors are going to be cockroaches, coyotes and rednecks.’ When the mushroom cloud clears, there will be a guy coming out with no shirt on going ‘Crank it up, baby!’ We’re here to stay.”
For more about Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips go to www.gritchips.com.