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Texans star J.J. Watt to serve as Daytona 500 grand marshal

February 11, 2019
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Paul Menard (21) and Kyle Busch, top left, lead the field of cars to start the NASCAR Clash auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)
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Paul Menard (21) and Kyle Busch, top left, lead the field of cars to start the NASCAR Clash auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Houston Texans star J.J. Watt will serve as the grand marshal for the Daytona 500, making him the first NFL player to give the command for drivers to starts their engines before NASCAR’s most famous race.

Daytona International Speedway made the announcement Monday, six days before the 61st running of “The Great American Race.”

Watt is a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and well known for his charity work with the Justin J. Watt Foundation, which provides after-school opportunities for children. Following Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Watt set a goal to raise $200,000 for recovery efforts in Houston. He ended up raising more than $41 million, helping earn him the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

Country music singer Jake Owen will perform an infield concert before the race. Retired NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. will serve as the honorary pace truck driver. The 82nd Airborne Division’s All-American Chorus will sing the national anthem.

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