Celebrities at Every Turn of This Year's Daytona 500

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer IFebruary 15, 2009

The Daytona 500 has often been called the “Super Bowl” of NASCAR.  It will indeed live up to its billing with all of the glitterati who will be attending the 51st running of the Great American Race.

Tom Cruise, Hollywood superstar, is scheduled to drive the Chevy Camaro pace car during the parade laps of the Daytona 500.  Cruise is familiar with stock cars, starring in the movie “Days of Thunder.”

Cruise has been increasingly visible in NASCAR circles in the past few months.  He was recently seen at the Sprint Cup Series Championship Banquet at the Waldorf Astoria, an invited guest of owner Rick Hendrick.

Ironically, Cruise’s ex-wife Nicole Kidman is also scheduled to be at the Daytona 500.  She will be accompanying her husband Keith Urban, who will be performing a pre-race concert for the fans.

“Dancing with the Stars” performer and country singer Julianne Hough was scheduled to sing the national anthem.  She has come down with a stomach virus and will be unable to attend.

Hough remarked, “I am so disappointed that I’m missing the opportunity to sing the national anthem at the Daytona 500.”  She said, “I came down with a severe case of influenza and the doctor told me I could not fly.  I look forward to making it up to everyone soon.”

Gavin DeGraw, who was already scheduled to perform at the Daytona 500 Grand Marshall’s Dinner anyway the evening before the race, will step in to fill Julianne’s shoes. DeGraw’s debut album “Chariot” went platinum and produced three hit singles.

Boxing world champion Evander Holyfield is also scheduled to appear at the Daytona 500.  He actually has a vested interest, having taken a stake in the new Smith-Ganassi Racing Team in the Nationwide series.

While Holyfield enjoys the seat of a fan, he says he has no desire to get behind the wheel.  “I wouldn’t take a chance to go around there that fast,” he said. 

“I like watching it,” Holyfield stated, but he continued to say that wouldn’t make him get into the car, just like his fans enjoy watching him but wouldn’t like getting into the ring.

One of NASCAR’s greatest, Bobby Allison, will be the Honorary Starter for the Daytona 500.  He will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of his most famous fight at that track with his race nemesis Cale Yarborough.

While the stars will shine off the track, there will be only one superstar on the track in Victory Lane at the end of this year’s running of the greatest American Race.

And that superstar will surpass all others, driving his car not only into Victory Lane, but into Daytona 500 history, displayed for the next year for all to see at the Daytona 500 Experience.

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