Daytona 500 2012: 15 Celebritiy Honorary Starters We'd Rather See Than John Cena

David DeNennoContributor IIIFebruary 21, 2012

Daytona 500 2012: 15 Celebritiy Honorary Starters We'd Rather See Than John Cena

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    John Cena's selection as the honorary starter for the 2012 Daytona 500 was unprecedented. He is the first professional wrestler ever to be tapped for such a duty.

    Ironically, the only precedent for NASCAR's selection of the honorary starter for the Great American Race is that there really is no precedent.

    Admittedly, it is not a difficult job. The starter simply has to wait for the call to start engines, then wave a green flag once the pace car goes off the track and the cars approach the start/finish line. That's it.

    NASCAR has named an honorary starter for every Daytona 500 since 1973. There have been some unsurprising starters, as well those that probably accounted for a lot of head scratching.

    Former drivers, Olympic athletes and military personnel have all done the job. None of these starters give pause.

    Contrarily, NASCAR has also tapped the former Attorney General of Ohio, an author and even Mariah Carey and Whoopi Goldberg to carry out the flag waving.

    John Cena probably would probably be considered more of an odd choice rather than a traditional one.

    Still, with no real precedent for what constitutes the qualifications, he cannot be considered a bad, or even wrong, selection.

    Listed here are 15 celebrities we might prefer to see other than John Cena.

    There is a heavy concentration on music acts because it is my feeling that, if NASCAR would like to emulate the NFL Super Bowl, it could use the honorary starter position as a designator for a major music act to close out the Daytona 500, much like the NFL designates a big-name halftime show performer.

    Since there is no existing precedent, why not make one that entertains the fans? Enjoy.

Reba McEntire

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    The host of the 2011 Sprint Cup Awards probably deserves the nod to kick off the next season.

    Singer and actress Reba McEntire did a fine job hosting the latest edition of the awards ceremony—she could handle the duty at Daytona.

    As an added bonus, she could hold a concert either before the race or afterwards to conclude Speedweeks.

    At the very least, that is a decent way to attract more fans.

Bret Michaels

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    Going with that theme, Poison front man Bret Michaels could be a popular choice.

    He is an avid NASCAR fan and has also made the, "gentlemen, start your engines" call in the past.

    Most fans would probably rather rock out to a Poison show than listen to John Cena perform whatever version of hip-hop or rap that he purveys to the general listening public.

    That is not a knock on Cena's musical prowess. His rap act would probably fall on deaf ears if attended by an overwhelming majority of NASCAR fans.

Michael Phelps

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    Michael Phelps would not need to give any sort of performance.

    Because 2012 is a Summer Olympics year, it is probable that many a NASCAR fan would prefer to see the most successful Olympic athlete in American history make an appearance at the Great American Race than John Cena.

    As an added bonus, he is a racer by profession. Speed is the factor that has placed all of those gold medals around his neck.

Kim Kardashian

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    As a celebrity, Kim Kardashian is still somewhat of an "it" girl.

    She has also been associated with NASCAR in the past through short-term sponsorship. It is hard to fathom that many males, if given a choice, would chose John Cena over Kim Kardashian to be present at the Daytona 500.

General (ret.) David Petraeus

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    Actually, David Petraeus is not an Army general anymore. He is currently the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

    However, he did serve in the Army for 37 years, commanding large-scale operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    It is doubtful whether anyone would be incensed if he were to drop the green flag at the Daytona 500. After all, very few people in that crowd or watching at home on television could claim such sustained, superior performance to his country as Mr. Petraeus.

Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert

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    This married couple could drop the flag, then give a great duet concert to close out the Daytona 500.

    Blake Shelton could also do a promotion for his hit show The Voice by selecting one of his contestants in a singing competition at the Daytona International Speedway. There is a seeming crossover appeal here, as many NASCAR fans also happen to be drawn to country music.

    Of course, that will not happen this year, but Shelton would still be a popular choice to start the race in 2012.

Will Ferrel

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    Comedian Will Ferrel is probably considered a bigger soccer fan than he is a NASCAR one. No matter, his film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby has forever endeared him to fans of NASCAR.

    If he could find the fire suit that he wore in that movie, he would likely be the only honorary starter to ever fulfill his duties in professional racing attire.

Mick Jagger

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    Actually, both the subjects in this photo would not be shabby choices to start the Daytona 500. They could even do it together. Mick Jagger and Bill Clinton seem to be good buddies, especially when attending World Cup soccer matches together.

    However, Bill Clinton would not have much to offer NASCAR fans once the eventual winner crossed the finish line and wrote themselves into racing history.

    On the other hand, the excitement of the Daytona 500 finale followed by a Rolling Stones show to close the festivities is tempting, if nothing else.

    It seems reasonable to assume that a few fans would stick around for that spectacle.

    The only stigma attached to that would be that Jagger is not an American citizen. As far as I am aware, all 40 Daytona 500 honorary starters, including John Cena, have been Americans.

    Who cares about that, though? Would you rather have John Cena wave a flag and leave, or have Mick Jagger do the honors and rock the house after the race? That is a pretty easy choice.

Cale Yarborough

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    If asked, any true NASCAR fan would rather see a recent Hall of Fame inductee open the 54th running of the Daytona 500 than John Cena.

    This would not be so much as a sign of preference, but simply a sign of respect to the legends of the sport.

    2012 inductee Richie Evans has passed away and cannot assume the duties. Glen Wood just did it in 2010. Darrell Waltrip will be in the broadcast booth for Fox during the race. That leaves either Daytona legend Cale Yarborough or crew chief Dale Inman to do the honors.

    It's pretty much a toss-up. What do you prefer: A man that drove to four Daytona 500 victories or a man that engineered seven championships with Richard Petty? If they both end up doing it in the next few years, few complaints will be voiced.


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    Well, they recently took part of the festivities when Formula One visited India last year.

    The formula for the musician as honorary starter is the same: Metallica, probably James Hetfield or Lars Ulrich, drops the flag to start the race, then they give a a huge show to end the party.

    What would be their opening number? "Fuel for Fire" for sure!

Eli Manning

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    Having an NFL quarterback start the Great American Race is certainly not unprecedented. On the contrary, star quarterbacks have started the race more times than most other professions.

    In terms of sports-related professions, they dominate the guest list. No Major League Baseball player has ever started a Daytona 500. It would be fitting for the quarterback who won the Super Bowl in 2012 to open the Super Bowl of NASCAR.

    This year, that would be Eli Manning. It would probably be met with mixed emotions, but most would probably prefer a representative from the NFL as opposed to the WWE.

Greg Allman

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    Obviously that is not Greg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band. However, the band is often associated with the state of Georgia, much like Lynyrd Skynyrd is with Alabama.

    Actually, Greg Allman and his deceased brother Duane grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida. This would give the honorary starter role a more localized feel.

    It would also provide a decent concert once the checkered flag has dropped.

Tim Tebow

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    On that note, Tim Tebow could fit the bill well as an honorary starter. He is both an NFL quarterback and is heavily popular in the state of Florida for his achievements at the University of Florida.

    John Cena has nothing on Tim Tebow inside the Florida state boundary lines.

Bruce Springsteen

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    "The Boss" is yet another musician that could give a great concert after performing his preliminary duties.

    Of course, "Born in the U.S.A" would probably have to open the set, but it's not a bad song.

    Feel free to comment if there are any other music acts you would prefer to see start the race, then end the party after the race.

Richard Petty

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    NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard "The King" Petty has already performed the duties of honorary starter twice.

    Beloved almost universally by NASCAR fans, Petty would be a popular choice if and when he ever gets a third chance to do the honors.

    Would anyone complain? Nah...he's the king. John Cena cannot hold a candle to NASCAR's version of a royal patriarch.