By admin | February 9, 2013
By Richard Allen
On Friday, it was announced by the Daytona International Speedway and Disney that actor James Franco will serve as the Grand Marshal for the 2013 Daytona 500. The movie star will ride in a pace car, deliver the starting command and perform a number of other ceremonial duties representing the sport and its biggest race.
Not so coincidentally, Franco and Disney have a new movie coming out. “Oz: The Great and Powerful” opens in theaters next month.
Franco will certainly not be the first celebrity to serve as a NASCAR Grand Marshal. In recent yearscelebrities such as John Travolta, Ben Affleck, Nicolas Cage, Kate Upton, Jane Lynch and Matthew McConaughey have all called out “Drivers, Start Your Engines!”
Doesn’t it cheapen the sport’s biggest event to allow celebrities to simply use the Daytona 500 as a promotional tool for their latest projects, especially if the star in question has no other reason for being there?
How often have we heard Grand Marshals tell radio and television interviewers that this is their first ever race? It seems to be a fairly common theme.
This piece was not written to be anti-Franco. He’s a very good actor. And for all I know, James Franco could be a huge NASCAR fan(although I doubt it). But whether he is or isn’t, his primary purpose for being in Daytona on February 24 will be to promote his new movie. That’s all well and good for him and Disney, but what about NASCAR?
The Daytona 500 is not only the sport’s premier event but it is also the lead in for the rest of a long season. Why not use this event to promote the sport and its greatness rather than James Franco and “Oz: The Great and Powerful”? Does everything always have to be a sellout to the highest bidder?
Take a look at the Indianapolis 500. Sure, there are celebrities on hand. But the core of that race’s pre-race has hardly changed over the course of years, or even decades.
Here would be my suggestion. Now that the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony has been moved to serve as a kickoff event for the season, why not let the most recently inducted members or their surviving representatives serve as Grand Marshals for the Daytona 500? What could be more appropriate than having people who built the sport issuing the command to start engines, and thus, build the new season?
Every year when possible, The Masters golf tournament is set in motion when a legendary former champion of the event hits an honorary tee shot. No celebrity promoting a movie or singer promoting a new album is on the course at Augusta National.
The Masters has green jacketed legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player to start one of golf’s great events while NASCAR will have the Green Goblin.
In order to play along for your chance to win $25 by predicting the race winner of the Daytona 500, you must follow @RacingWithRich on Twitter or “Like” the RacingWithRichpage on Facebook. Your pick MUST be submitted on one of those two social media locations. Submissions will ONLY be accepted between 8:00am and 1:00pm(eastern) on February 24. Twitter followers MUST use the hastag #RWRDaytona500while Facebook submissions can simply be made under the post announcing the opening for submissions. Click here for full contest rules.
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