FLAGS FLYING – The American flag has long stood as a symbol of freedom in the United States, and that symbol was on full display during the pre-race festivities at the 53rd running of the Coca-Cola 600.

As part of the Let Freedom Race military tributes leading up to the green flag during the world’s largest Memorial Day celebration, nearly 500 volunteers unfurled the world’s largest flag, a 128,000-square-foot swath of red, white and blue stars and stripes.

Superflag, a Los Alamitos, Calif.-based company, owns the 255-foot-by-505-foot flag and showcases it at sporting events, parades, festivals and other events.

AVETT BROTHERS MEET LABONTE – It’s hard to imagine what “punkgrass” rockers The Avett Brothers and 48-year-old NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Bobby Labonte could possibly have in common. But at a gathering arranged partially by Labonte’s 17-year-old son Tyler, a big fan of the group and a guitar player himself, Bobby Labonte and the Avett Brothers found plenty of common ground.

Scott and Seth Avett grew up in Concord, N.C., just down the road from Charlotte Motor Speedway. Labonte has lived in nearby Trinity, N.C., for decades, and he spent many nights at Concord Speedway learning his craft.

“Really? My dad was a welder and worked out there,” Scott Avett said.

“What about that. I was running there a lot, right about when they paved it,” Labonte said.

“I remember when they paved it,” Avett said.

And they continued trading names and stories, remarking on the similarities between grassroots racing and grassroots music, as well as the changes that take place en route to stardom.

The Avett Brothers’ most recent album, “I and Love and You” was released in 2009 and peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard 200 bestselling albums and No. 1 in folk albums. They appeared on the 53rd Grammy Awards in 2011 were named the “Artist to Watch” in 2009 by Rolling Stone, and they won the Americana Music Association Duo/Group of the Year and New/Emerging Artist of the Year awards in 2008.

Sunday, they had no official duties at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but they were treated to a full tour of race day at the superspeedway.

DARIUS RUCKER – Before Darius Rucker was a country recording artist, before he was a Blowfish, he was a race fan.

Rucker remembers fondly his days before hitting it big, buying tickets for his home track in Darlington, being able to only afford the cheapest seats in the place.

“I had to pay for those tickets, so I was way up in the nosebleeds,” Rucker said.

Things are a little different today. Rucker, former frontman for the wildly successful mainstream pop band Hootie and the Blowfish and today a successful country music singer, played a pre-race concert and sing the national anthem for tonight’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He will be invited to watch from the suites or the comfort of his luxury mega-RV. He will be televised and introduced and recognized, and he will greet close friend Jimmie Johnson on the grid before the green flag drops.

“I love coming here; there’s nothing like it,” Rucker said. “You’re right there on the infield with the track right behind you, and everybody’s out there. With the built-in crowd, and the way (NASCAR) treats you, this is great.”