Honorary Starter: Ken Griffey Jr.
Newly elected Major League Baseball Hall of Fame center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. served as Honorary Starter, waving the green flag to start the 58th running of "The Great American Race”.
Griffey Jr. received a record 99.32 percent of the vote by the Baseball Writers' Association of America in results announced in January 2016.
Over 22 years, he had notable stints with the Seattle Mariners and the Cincinnati Reds. Griffey Jr. is sixth on the MLB career home run list (630), is a 13-time All Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner and the 1997 American League MVP.
On being at the DAYTONA 500: "This is truly an honor. I’ve watched the race numerous times. I’ve been here three times since I retired. To be able to start the race is pretty cool."
Pre-Race Show Performer: Florida Georgia Line
Award-winning country music duo Florida Georgia Line, comprised of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard, officially opened the first ever DAYTONA 500 to be held in the world’s only motorsports stadium.
Fresh off of being awarded the first-ever RIAA Digital Diamond Award for their single “Cruise”, the group entertained and rocked the house with some of their most popular hits.
For Kelley, performing at the “World Center of Racing” was a homecoming having grown up in the neighboring city of Ormond Beach. Kelley attended Seabreeze High School and Daytona State College.
Tyler Hubbard on the new stadium: “The stadium is beautiful. It’s amazing. Flying in over it, it was awesome. This is already a special place. You can feel the energy. It’s an honor to be here. It’s a huge day for us, huge day for racing, huge day for America.”
Grand Marshal: Gerard Butler
As Grand Marshal, Butler delivered the most famous words in motorsports, “Drivers, start your engines.” Along with the command, Butler also wowed the crowd as he played off of his popular role in “300”, yelling “This Is DAYTONA!” In addition, he took part in other pre-race ceremonies including riding in one of the Grand Marshal cars during the pace laps and attending the drivers meeting.
Butler joined a long list of actors who have previously served as DAYTONA 500 Grand Marshals including Vince Vaughn, James Franco, Chris Evans, John Travolta, Ben Affleck, Nicolas Cage, and Matthew McConaughey.
On being at the DAYTONA 500: "The atmosphere is blowing me away…Arriving here today to the stadium, what an aura and atmosphere. I’m really excited."
15-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion John Cena paced the 43-car field to the green flag in a Toyota Camry. Cena, one of the most iconic WWE Superstars in history, has been at the forefront of WWE’s programming for more than a decade. Most recently, he’s extended his reach with a foray into acting in movies like “Trainwreck” and “Sisters”.
It was a return trip to DAYTONA for Cena as he was honorary starter to kick off the 54th running of the DAYTONA 500.
On being at the DAYTONA 500: "Being at DAYTONA, it’s a race that transcends the race, the entity and the business. It’s a destination. It’s truly an honor to be part of this."
Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola
Pre-Race Concert Performer: Montgomery Gentry
Montgomery Gentry returned to Daytona International Speedway after having participated in the inaugural Country 500 – The Great American Music Fest At DAYTONA on Memorial Day weekend.
The multi-platinum country music duo comprised of Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry performed a 60-minute pre-race concert prior to the 58th annual Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola.
To date, the country music duo has released 11 albums, three of which have gone platinum: Tattoos & Scars, My Town and You Do Your Thing.
Pace Car Driver: Telvin Smith
The two-year NFL veteran and 2015 breakout player served as Honorary Pace Car Driver for the Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola. The former Florida State and current Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker led the field around the 2.5-mile tri-oval in a Toyota Camry Pace Car.
In addition, he participated in a question-and-answer session in Fanzone, pre-race ceremonies and attended the drivers’ meeting.
Smith has started 24 games and his 227 total tackles are the most ever by a Jaguars player in their first two seasons. In 2014 his 99 tackles were ranked third among NFL rookies and he was one of only two rookies to record multiple sacks and an interception during their rookie season.
On driving the pace car: “I’m very prepared. I was excited to get out in the car, even if I was a little skittish about having all of those other cars behind me. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s my first NASCAR experience and this is big for me.”
Medal of Honor Recipients: Command Sergeant Major Gary Littrell, Specialist Ty Carter and Captain Florent Groberg
For eight straight years, DIS has recognized Congressional Medal of Honor recipients during the Coke Zero 400 Weekend Powered By Coca-Cola. A practice that was originally started by Bill France Jr. in the 1970s continued in 2016 with Captain Florent Groberg, U.S. Army (Afghanistan); Staff Sergeant Ty Carter, U.S. Army (Afghanistan) and Command Sergeant Major Gary Littrell, U.S. Army (Vietnam).
Over the course of the Fourth of July weekend these three recipients were honored at a luncheon, attended the drivers’ meetings, participated in pre-race ceremonies for both Friday night’s Subway Firecracker 250 Powered By Coca-Cola NASCAR XFINITY Series race and Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. In addition, they participated in an autograph session in Fanzone prior to Saturday night’s race.
On his first NASCAR race: “I love it. I can see why people are such fans of this sport. You can see why NASCAR says they have the greatest fans in the world. They see a person in a uniform and want to shake their hands. This is America at its best.” -Captain Groberg
If you could invite any VIP to attend a race with you at DAYTONA, who would it be? Let us know in the comment box below. Be sure to stay tuned for announcements about the VIPs that will take part in Speedweeks 2017.
Be a part of the next chapter of history by attending the 59th running of the DAYTONA 500. Tickets are on sale now and going fast! Buy now or call 1-800-PITSHOP for tickets and information.
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