It’s been a special year for NASCAR driver Michael McDowell – wining the season-opening DAYTONA 500 and clinching a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Friday, the surreal feeling became complete reality, when he became part of the DAYTONA 500 Champions’ Walk of Fame in front of the Daytona International Speedway Ticket & Tours Building.
“To be put in the same category as some of the greatest drivers in the history of our sport, a DAYTONA 500 Champion, is just mind-boggling to me. I am truly humbled and so proud. It’s been a dream,” said McDowell, whose victory in February was his first career triumph. “I think we have a shot to get our second Daytona win in tomorrow’s Coke Zero Sugar 400, too. We have a good car and am pumped about it.”
The DAYTONA 500 Champions’ Walk of Fame is a tradition that dates back to 1996 with NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett being the first to partake. As part of the DAYTONA 500 Champions’ celebration in February, every driver places their hands, right foot and autograph in a 3×3 foot cement block that is officially installed in August as part of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 Weekend.
McDowell will go for history yet again Saturday in the Coke Zero Sugar 400. Since the track opened in 1959 and began hosting two NASCAR Cup Series races a year, only five times has the DAYTONA 500 Champion backed it up with a Coke Zero Sugar 400 triumph.
The list of names is a “Who’s Who” of NASCAR royalty that includes: Fireball Roberts (1962), Cale Yarborough (1968), LeeRoy Yarbrough (1969), Bobby Allison (1982) and Jimmie Johnson (2013). Roberts, Yarborough and Allison are NASCAR Hall of Famers, and Johnson is a shoo-in once he becomes eligible, while Yarbrough won NASCAR’s Triple Crown in ’69.
Entering the summer classic Coke Zero Sugar 400, 15 drivers have secured their position in NASCAR’s Playoffs, but on the outside looking in, are another 15 drivers, who, with a win, can automatically punch their ticket towards a championship run in NASCAR’s premier series. Last year, William Byron pulled off the feat, capturing his first Cup Series win and a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs.
Fans can purchase tickets starting at $49 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under. Those fans can also purchase access to the UNOH Fanzone for $60. Here, fans can participate in events before the race. This includes, but is not limited to, the return of the traditional Coke Zero Sugar 400 Pre-Race Concert featuring Chris Lane, pre-race ceremonies, driver introductions, access to the large grass ballfield, signing the start/finish line through the middle of the 18-degree, banked trioval.
Also scheduled is LIVE entertainment on the main UNOH Fanzone Stage, including Fan Q&A, which includes (scheduled) McDowell, Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez and two-time DAYTONA winning crew chief Drew Blickensderfer. Fans can also get photos with the winning trophies of the weekend in Ruoff Mortgage Victory Lane.
As part of the “Welcome Back” weekend for fans, the track’s outside Midway (In Front of Sunoco, Toyota, Axalta, Chevrolet and AdventHealth Injectors) and UNOH Fanzone will be the site of a host of exciting interactive activities, featuring eNASCAR Racing, along with other speedway partner exhibits like Pit Boss, Coca-Cola, GEICO, Chevrolet, Toyota, Wawa, Air Force (featuring a fighter jet), Door Dash, Busch Beer, General Tire and a NASCAR Kids Zone.