Legendary broadcaster Larry King passed away on Saturday morning at the age of 87. King was a longtime sports fan who routinely appeared at Los Angeles Dodgers games or wore Miami Dolphins merchandise. He also served as co-grand marshal prior to a NASCAR exhibition race.
On February 15, 2014, King headed to Daytona International Speedway in Florida for an important task. He had to give the command for the drivers to start their engines. Two racing fans joined him at the microphone as co-grand marshals while King's now ex-wife Shawn sang the national anthem. The assembled drivers then fired up their stock cars and raced 75 laps around the iconic track while taking part in the exhibition race.
There were 18 drivers that started the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race in 2014, but only eight reached the end of the 75 laps. The remainder left the race early due to crashes. Denny Hamlin ultimately drove the No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry to the checkered flag, followed by Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. Ryan Newman ended the day in eighth place. Danica Patrick, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards were all among those that did not finish the race.
In addition to serving as the grand marshal, King also interviewed one of NASCAR's biggest stars in 2014. He sat down with Jeff Gordon and talked to him about a previous beef with Jimmie Johnson, as well as the day that Dale Earnhardt passed away. The Hall of Famer explained how he learned about the fatal crash at the Daytona 500.
"I wasn't in the race at the time," Gordon said. "It was a race that we had run, we had issues of our own and we had pulled out. I was watching on TV getting ready to leave the track when I saw the accident." Gordon then explained that he had seen Earnhardt crash multiple times during his career and walk away unscathed. He didn't think at the time that it was an impact that would have resulted in death.
Gordon also talked about Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his rise to prominence in NASCAR. King asked why Earnhardt's son was so popular, and Gordon provided several reasons. He said that the name played a role but also said that Dale Jr. was a great race car driver and a great guy.