NASCAR

Terry Labonte gives Vienna Boys' Choir the ride of a lifetime

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TALLADEGA, Ala.

Soccer may be the most popular sport in Austria, but even half a world away from its home, NASCAR has some mighty big fans -- even if they are only 10 to 14 years of age. On Tuesday, during a break from the start of a nine-week tour, the world famous Vienna Boys' Choir took a tour of Talladega Superspeedway -- and received the ride of a lifetime with former NASCAR Winston Cup Champion behind the wheel. "This is most wonderful. It's really breathtaking," said Tania Jastrebov, who helps coordinate the choir's tour and watch over the 23 boys during the nine-week trek. "It's fascinating, both this place and the boys' reaction to this place." The Vienna Boys' Choir was in Talladega as part of its tour, playing to a packed house at Talladega's Ritz Theatre on Monday night. Tonight's second and final concert in Talladega is just the fourth concert on a 42-date tour for the choir. "We've just started, but what a wonderful opportunity this has been," said Jastrebov. The choir toured the International Motorsports Hall of Fame on Tuesday morning before heading inside Alabama's famed 2.66-mile tri-oval. Once inside, the boys were treated to a rare glimpse of Talladega's high-banked turns with Labonte as the driver. Labonte, the 1984 and 1996 Winston Cup champ, was at Talladega for a test session, but agreed to shut down the track for a half hour to give the boys a few laps. "This is wonderful for these boys," said George Culver, executive director of Antique Talladega. "Not only the opportunity to ride around Talladega Superspeedway, but with driving -- this is a great experience for them."The Vienna Boys' Choir came to the Talladega Ritz Theatre after appearing in Atlanta over the weekend. After Tuesday's concert, the choir will travel to Nashville. As Labonte climbed into the track's official pace car, three boys quickly made their way to the car to join Labonte for two laps around the track. Waiting their turn, were Donald Smith and Ryan Slone, both of Cincinnati, OH. Smith and Slone are the only two Americans on this tour. "Neither one of us have ever been to Talladega," said Slone. "We've seen it on TV, but this is much different. It's a lot bigger." Slone and Smith were part of a choir in Cincinnati when they received the chance to join the Vienna Boys' Choir more than 18 months ago. Fittingly, this tour ends in Cincinnati, where the boys will leave the show and rejoin their families at home. "This is something I'll get to brag about back home," said Smith, after he and Slone climbed out of Labonte's car. "I've got some friends who have been to other tracks but have never made it to Talladega. They want to, they just haven't yet. So, now I get to tell them that I've been to Talladega before them, and I got to ride around the track with ." Just as excited were Wolfgang Haunold and Alexander Gorgi, even if they weren't familiar with . To see a driver climb out of a stock car and into a street car, complete with a bright Kellogg's driver suit on, was not missed on the faces of these two young boys. Each began taking pictures of Labonte as he climbed into the car. "This is a thrill for them. Just look at them," said Jastrebov. Racing returns to Alabama's famed 2.66-mile tri-oval April 3-6 for the Aaron's Dream Weekend. Tickets still remain for the NWC Aaron's 499, as well as Saturday's doubleheader with the Busch Series Aaron's 312 and the IROC Racing Series.

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