DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ryan Lochte, three-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer and Daytona Beach native, will serve as Grand Marshal for the first of two Gatorade Duel At Daytona 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday, Feb. 23 at Daytona International Speedway.

Lochte, who won his first gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and two more at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, will deliver the starting command “Drivers, start your engines” to begin the first Gatorade Duel.

Including his three gold medals, Lochte is a 12-time Olympic and World medalist. He currently holds the world record in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay as part of the American team and the world record for both the 200-meter and the 400-meter individual medley.

Lochte’s other career highlights include being named the 2010 FINA Male Swimmer of the Year, USA Swimming’s 2009 Male Athlete of the Year and  winning a total of 57 medals spanning the Olympics, World, Pan American, and Pan Pacific Championships.

“We are looking forward to welcoming one of Daytona Beach’s most decorated athletes as Grand Marshal for the first Gatorade Duel,” said Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III. “His achievements are inspiring to those around the world and are great point of pride in the Daytona Beach community.  We are honored to have him play an integral part in the Gatorade Duel.”

Raised in Daytona Beach by parents that were swimmers, Lochte is a graduate of nearby Spruce Creek High School and the University of Florida, where competed under the direction of Coach Gregg Troy and was the NCAA Swimmer of the Year twice, a seven-time NCAA champion and a seven-time Southeastern Conference champion.

Aside from swimming, Lochte is very committed to charity outreach. He supports Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy and lobbied for the passing of the Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Care Act, which was signed by President George W. Bush. He is also the spokesperson for the Mac Crutchfield Fund, a local charity that provides scholarships to the Special Olympics community in memory of the 12-year-old swimmer that drowned during Tropical Storm Faye.

The Gatorade Duel At Daytona features two 150-mile, 60-lap races that will finalize the starting lineup for NASCAR’s most prestigious race – the 54th annual Daytona 500.

Tickets for Speedweeks 2012 events, including the 54th annual Daytona 500, are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.

Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter (www.twitter.com/disupdates) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/DaytonaInternationalSpeedway) and fans can also follow NASCAR (@NASCAR) and hashtags #NASCAR and #DAYTONA500.