On Sunday, Feb. 16, the 62nd annual Daytona 500 will begin at the Daytona International Speedway. This iteration of "The Great American Race" will feature a highly-anticipated honorary starter in Dale Earnhardt Jr. The two-time Daytona 500 champion will be on hand to wave the green flag and kick off the festivities.
Following his retirement from the sport in 2017, Earnhardt has remained involved in the Daytona 500 after winning the race in 2004 and 2014. He was the Grand Marshal in 2018, and he served as the Official Pace Truck Driver in this year's race.
Earnhardt announced the news on his podcast, The Dale Jr. Download. Recent Honorary Starters at the Daytona 500 have been Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, Hall of Fame baseball player Ken Griffey Jr., and actors Charlize Theron and Gary Sinise.
"The only thing left for Dale now is for him to sing the National Anthem prior to the DAYTONA 500," Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said, per NASCAR.com.
"That probably won't happen. But what will happen, come February, will be another outpouring of support from race fans about Dale's involvement. There's no way to exaggerate how much he means to the fans and to NASCAR. Any role he plays on a DAYTONA 500 weekend is significant."
While Earnhardt does appreciate the support that he has received from the fans and the directors of the Daytona 500, he does not plan on indulging this final request. Apparently, singing is not his strong suit, and he will not be putting this talent on display.
"One thing is certain, I'm not doing any singing at Daytona no matter how hard they ask," Earnhardt said. "But I am going to enjoy waving the green flag in February. The start of the DAYTONA 500 is a special moment in not only NASCAR but all of sports. I am truly honored to be part of that."
As he said on Twitter, Earnhardt has been bugging Wile each year to give him something to do at the Daytona 500 in order to bug the people that are bugged by his presence. The only way that he would agree to sing the National Anthem is if he was providing backup for George Strait. To clarify, his definition of backup is him sitting at a campground drinking beer.0comments
Earnhardt enjoyed a 19-year NASCAR Cup Series in which he was the winner of the Daytona 500 twice. He was also named the Most Popular Driver 15 consecutive times (2003-2017). As the winner of the Busch Series (twice), Earnhardt is viewed as one of the greatest racers in the history of NASCAR.
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