Akbar Gbajabiamila and Matt Iseman, co-hosts of NBC’s four-time Emmy Award-nominated athletic competition series “American Ninja Warrior,” will serve as Grand Marshals of Saturday’s much anticipated Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway – the last-chance race for the NASCAR Cup Series’ 2020 Playoffs. The duo will virtually give the command, “Drivers Start Your Engines,” to ignite the Coke Zero Sugar 400, set for a 7:30 p.m. ET start on NBC.
Season 12 of “American Ninja Warrior” will premiere Monday, Sept. 7 with a two-hour episode beginning at 8 p.m. ET/PT. The series will feature an abridged format with multiple rounds: Qualifiers (six-obstacle course), Semi-Finals (10-obstacle course) and Finals (10 obstacle course + Power Tower playoff bracket). To determine the winner during the Finals, the top eight ninjas will compete in a playoff bracket where they will race head-to-head on the Power Tower. The winner will earn $100,000.
Production for the eight-episode series took place in St. Louis at the Dome at America’s Center. “American Ninja Warrior” is the first NBC series to have completed a full season of episodes during the current pandemic. Ironically, there is another tie-in with Daytona International Speedway and “American Ninja Warrior.” In 2017, the 2.5-mile “World Center of Racing” was a filming location for season nine of the action-packed series.
Gbajabiamila also co-hosts the Universal Kid’s spin off show, “American Ninja Warrior Junior,” as well as NFL Networks’ highest rated show, “NFL Fantasy Live.” He is also the author of Everyone Can Be a Ninja, his first book, which dropped in May 2019. The L.A. native played five years in the NFL splitting his time with the Raiders, Chargers and the Dolphins, before transitioning to broadcasting in 2008.
Iseman, too, serves as co-host “American Ninja Warrior Junior.” He has also hosted History’s “Evel Live,” specials which honor legendary daredevil Evel Knievel, as well as A&E’s “Live Rescue” which follows the lives of first responders around the country. As a stand-up comic, the Denver native has recurred on “Comics Unleashed” and is a regular on the L.A. comedy club circuit.
While the Gbajabiamila and Iseman will get the Coke Zero Sugar 400 (also heard on SiriusXM and MRN) started, below are other Honorary Officials for the 160-lap event, plus those for Friday night’s Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola NASCAR Xfinity race, which also gets a 7:30 pm ET (NBCSN, SiriusXM and MRN) green flag.
Other Honorary Officials – Coke Zero Sugar 400
- Honorary Starter: John Mount, VP Sports Marketing and Region Assets, Coca-Cola
- National Anthem: Kelly Parsons Kwiatek, from Daytona Beach, FL
- Invocation: Chaplain Juleun Johnson, AdventHealth
- Presentation of Colors: Daytona Beach Police Department Honor Guard
Honorary Officials – Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola
- Grand Marshal: Brian Schaller, Chief Fuel and Real Estate Office at Wawa
- National Anthem: Temecula Road
- Invocation: Chaplain Farzad Nourian, AdventHealth
A limited number of fans will get the opportunity to see the much-anticipated, last-chance-for-the-playoffs, Coke Zero Sugar 400, Saturday. Fans can get tickets, which start at $49 (both races included) for adults and $10 for kids 12 years old and younger, by visiting www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or calling 1-800-PIT-SHOP. The limited number of fans permitted is in accordance with enhanced safety protocols and procedures to provide a safe experience.
Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and by downloading Daytona International Speedway’s mobile app, for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.
About Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway is a state-of-the-art motorsports facility and was awarded the SportsBusiness Journal’s prestigious Sports Business Award for Sports Facility of the Year in 2016. Daytona International Speedway is the home of “The Great American Race” – the DAYTONA 500. Though the season-opening NASCAR Cup Series event garners most of the attention – as well as the largest audience in motorsports – the approximately 500-acre motorsports complex, also known as the “World Center of Racing,” boasts the most diverse schedule of racing on the globe. In addition to at least nine major event weekends, the Speedway grounds are also used extensively for events that include concerts, civic and social gatherings, car shows, photo shoots, production vehicle testing and police motorcycle training.