Dale Earnhardt Jr. said all season that he didn’t plan to race in 2018, but he’ll be at Daytona in February in an entirely new role.
For 18 years, Dale Jr. listened to celebrities and politicians give the command for the drivers to start their engines at the “World Center of Racing.” However, all that changes in 2018 as Dale Jr. has been chosen to be the grand marshal for the 60th running of “The Great American Race.”
“I was humbled when asked to be the Grand Marshal of next season’s Daytona 500,” Earnhardt said, according to NASCAR.com. “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.”
While it’s true that Dale Jr. has two Daytona 500 victories to his name, he’s actually won at the track a total of 17 times in NASCAR-sanctioned competition. That impressive win total includes two Coke Zero 400 wins in his career, including his dramatic victory in 2001, when he won in NASCAR’s first appearance at Daytona following the untimely death of his father.
Dale Jr. recently completed his final season in the Cup Series, but will continue to be involved in the sport, both as a team owner in the XFINITY Series, as well as a broadcaster for NBC.
It almost goes without saying that Chip Wile, who’s the president of Daytona International Speedway, is quite excited to have Dale Jr. as the grand marshal for the 2018 Daytona 500.
“Talk about a perfect fit – on the historic 60th running of the DAYTONA 500, we will have a man responsible for so much of our history serving as the Grand Marshal,” said Wile, according to ESPN. “He has meant so much to our facility, to NASCAR and all race fans through the years. It’s an honor to have him back in this capacity for the 2018 DAYTONA 500.”
Video: Dale Jr.’s dramatic victory at Daytona in 2001