Dale Earnhardt Jr. named Daytona 500 grand marshal
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will not compete in the 2018 Daytona 500 but he will have a major role on race day nevertheless.
The two-time winner of the Great American Race will serve as grand marshal for the season opener in his first year of retirement. The 43-year-old has been voted Most Popular Driver 14 straight times and will surely be the selection for the recently completed season, as well.
In his new role, he will give the command for all 40 starters to start their engines.
“I was humbled when I was asked to be the grand marshal of next season’s Daytona 500,” Earnhardt said in a statement. “The race has so much history and being a two-time winner of the event is something I am extremely proud of.
“The list of names who have grand marshaled the race is one I’m honored to add my name to. Speedweeks is an exciting time for our sport, and this assures me an opportunity to witness the thrills of it all.”
Earnhardt won a total of 17 races at the Speedway during his career across both Cup and Xfinity competition. In addition to his two 500 victories, he won two Coke Zero 400s and two Daytona preseason Clashes.
Daytona Speedway president Chip Wile called Earnhardt a perfect fit for the role.
“He has meant so much to our facility, to NASCAR and all race fans over the years,” Wile said. “It’s an honor to have him back in this capacity for the Daytona 500.”
Previous grand marshals have included actors Matthew McConaughey and Owen Wilson; President George W. Bush; and other previous winners like Junior Johnson and Richard Petty.
In addition to this gig, Earnhardt will also transition into a television role with NBC next year.