Earn­hardt Jr. back for Day­tona

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Iliana Limón Romero

NASCAR

Dale Earn­hardt Jr. can’t walk away from the Day­tona 500.

The re­tired NASCAR star has been named the hon­orary starter for the 62nd an­nual Day­tona 500, which is slated for Feb. 16 at Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way.

Earn­hardt an­nounced the news on his Dale Jr. Down­load pod­cast.

He won the Day­tona 500 in 2004 and 2014. Af­ter his re­tire­ment from rac­ing and the start of his broad­cast ca­reer, Earn­hardt was the 2019 Day­tona 500 pace-truck driver and 2018 Day­tona 500 grand mar­shal.

“The only thing left for

Dale now is for him to sing the na­tional an­them prior to the Day­tona 500,” Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way pres­i­dent Chip Wile said in a news re­lease. “That prob­a­bly won’t hap­pen.

“But what will hap­pen, come Fe­bru­ary, will be an­other out­pour­ing of sup­port from race fans about Dale’s in­volve­ment. There’s no way to ex­ag­ger­ate how much he means to the fans and to NASCAR. Any role he plays on a Day­tona 500 week­end is sig­nif­i­cant.”

“One thing is cer­tain, I’m not do­ing any singing at Day­tona no mat­ter how hard they ask,” Earn­hardt joked. “But I am go­ing to en­joy wav­ing the green flag in Fe­bru­ary. The start of the Day­tona 500 is a spe­cial mo­ment in not only NASCAR but all of sports. I am truly hon­ored to be part of that.”

The track is spe­cial place for Earn­hardt, whose fa­ther won the Day­tona 500 in 1998 dur­ing a dom­i­nant rac­ing ca­reer and died fol­low­ing a crash at the track in 2001.

Race of­fi­cials are sell­ing a 2020 Earn­hardt hon­orary starter pack­age. For $250, fans can get a ticket to the race, fan zone pre­race ac­cess, an ex­clu­sive ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion with Earn­hardt and a com­mem­o­ra­tive item signed by Earn­hardt.

To pur­chase, tick­ets fans can visit day­ton­ain­ter­na­tion­al­speed­way.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.

MARK LONG / AP

Dale Earn­hardt Jr. has been named the hon­orary starter for the 2020 Day­tona 500.

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