DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Presenting country music star Dirks Bentley with a hand-painted Martin guitar with the first race on the beach among the commemorative photos, it was the perfect kickoff to the 75th anniversary of NASCAR at the Daytona International Speedway.
“I’m just excited to be back at the Super Bowl of NASCAR,” said Bentley. “There’s really nothing else like it.”
“I probably would have come for free,” he joked during the Q&A.
Dressed in a Jeff Gordon jacket, Chevy fan and National Anthem performer Breland participated in his first press conference on Sunday, and questions addressed the ‘generational shuffle’ taking place and the rising interest of younger fans in the sport.
“I definitely think there’s a younger group. I think what you’re seeing is probably a lot of people who are having kids and those kids have now gotten older but also I think just in general NASCAR is exciting. It moves fast. My first time going to a race was the Atlanta Motor Speedway two years ago and I was blown away by the energy,” he said.
With a mission of recruit, retain, inspire, the Thunderbirds are back for their 13th consecutive flyover at the Daytona 500 and hinted about a special surprise during their demo today.
It’s a closeknit operation where blind trust and training are paramount to success, when asked about their find their favorite part of the movie Top Gun, camaraderie and the bonds they’ve built topped the list.
“They do a really good job of showcasing the military as a whole. It does a really good job of getting people excited about aviation and we love that,” said the team’s public affairs officer.
Not the only movie reference ahead of The Great American Race, honorary starter Tiffany Haddish kept the press laughing during her Q&A session. From movies to farming honey bees, the comedienne had zero reserve when it came to sharing her excitement about waving the flag to start the race.
“I been checking out the tutorials and it’s all in the wrist, and the energy that you give with it and you let the wind take you away,” said Haddish. “But don’t drop the flag.”
Not her first trip to Daytona, the addition of Michael Jordan as an owner in the sport has piqued her interest and she was ready to root for Bubba Wallace.
“He smells like success and gasoline,” she said of Wallace with her trademark humor.
“This is super special to me today, because I remember back in the early 2000’s I used to come to Daytona for the Black College Reunion and one day we were like – this is wack, I want to do something fun and exciting,” recalled Haddish of her first Speedway experience.
“We came and it was my first time coming to a race of this magnitude.”
Haddish wasn’t the only heavyweight on the stage. Charlotte Flair, WWE WrestleMania SmackDown Women’s Champion was on scene.
Sharing her inspiring personal story of wanting to help her brother through a drug addiction in 2012, it really comes down to family in the sport of wrestling and carrying on her family’s legacy.
“When I started my brother passed away. When he died it just sent me into a different train of thought. I spent so many years trying to save my brother’s life when ultimately he saved mine and put me on this path I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams. Now I’m the most decorated woman in the history of sports entertainment because of my little brother,” said Flair.