Rick Cardenas of Darden Restaurants Will Waive the Green Flag as Honorary Starter of “Last-Chance” Race at Daytona International Speedway That Will Determine the 16-Driver NASCAR Playoff Field
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Noah Lyles, a Coca-Cola 6-pack Athlete and Tokyo 2020 Olympic medalist, will serve as the Grand Marshal for Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400, the last-chance race for drivers to make the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Daytona International Speedway.
The Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7:30 p.m. ET start) is the final race of NASCAR’s premier series’ regular season, and with only one spot remaining to be filled in the 16-driver playoff field, a total of 15 competitors has a shot to punch their ticket to the championship run. While Lyles will give the famous “Drivers Start Your Engines” command, Rick Cardenas, President and Chief Operating Officer of Darden Restaurants, will be high atop the flagstand and be the race’s Honorary Starter.
“I’m very excited to be Grand Marshal of the Coke Zero Sugar 400,” said track and field athlete Lyles, who won the bronze in 200m at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. “My whole life is built around speed, and it is great to see these drivers doing the same. I’m looking forward to this year’s race.”
Lyles is the current world champion and fourth fastest man ever in the 200m race. He won two gold medals at the 2019 World Championships in the 200m and 4x100m relay. In 2018 he joined Usain Bolt as the only two men in history to run four sub-19.70 times in the 200m in one year. Born in Alexandria, VA, he currently resides in Clermont, FL.
Cardenas was named President and Chief Operating Officer of Darden Restaurants in January 2021. In this role, he is responsible for all restaurant operations as well as supply chain, development, franchising & international and consumer insights. Darden owns and operates more than 1,800 Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze and Eddie V’s restaurants in North America.
Entering the summer classic Coke Zero Sugar 400, 15 drivers have secured their position in NASCAR’s Playoffs, but on the outside looking in, are another 15 drivers, who, with a win, can automatically punch their ticket towards a championship run in NASCAR’s premier series. Last year, William Byron pulled off the feat, capturing his first Cup Series win and a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs.
Fans can purchase tickets starting at $49 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under. Those fans can also purchase access to the UNOH Fanzone for $60. Here, fans can participate in events before the race. This includes, but is not limited to, the return of the traditional Coke Zero Sugar 400 Pre-Race Concert featuring Chris Lane, pre-race ceremonies, driver introductions, access to the large grass ballfield, signing the start/finish line through the middle of the 18-degree, banked trioval. Also scheduled is LIVE entertainment on the main UNOH Fanzone Stage, including Fan Q&A, which includes (scheduled) McDowell, Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez and two-time DAYTONA winning crew chief Drew Blickensderfer. Fans can also get photos with the winning trophies of the weekend in Ruoff Mortgage Victory Lane.
Tickets to the Xfinity Series Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola, which is set for a 7:30 p.m. ET green flag start, begins at $35 for adults and FREE for kids 12 and under. Access to the UNOH Fanzone will be available before this race as well! A Two-Day Pass is available which includes access to the Coke Zero Sugar 400 on Saturday, and the Wawa 250 on Friday. These passes start at $69 for adults. Fan Q&A is also scheduled for Friday and will include Cindric, Gragson, Haley, AJ Allmendinger and Justin Allgaier.
As part of the “Welcome Back” weekend for fans, the track’s outside Midway (In Front of Sunoco, Toyota, Axalta, Chevrolet and AdventHealth Injectors) and UNOH Fanzone will be the site of a host of exciting interactive activities, featuring eNASCAR Racing, along with other speedway partner exhibits like Pit Boss, Coca-Cola, GEICO, Chevrolet, Toyota, Wawa, Air Force (featuring a fighter jet), Door Dash, Busch Beer, General Tire and a NASCAR Kids Zone.
The first 10,000 fans through the gates on Saturday will receive complimentary Coke Zero Sugar 400 drawstring bags.
For ticket information, and a full listing of activities in the Midway and UNOH Fanzone, visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway and see the latest speedway news on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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.