J.J. Watt to be 1st NFL star serving as Daytona 500 grand marshal

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is about to perform an NFL first at “The Great American Race,” the Daytona 500.

He 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 this coming weekend, officials announced.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as Grand Marshal for this year’s ‘Great American Race,’” Watt said, according to NASCAR. “The Daytona 500 is a truly iconic event with a rich history and I am very much looking forward to taking in the action up close and personal this year.”

Six days before the 61st running of “The Great American Race,” Daytona International Speedway announced J.J. Watt will serve as the grand marshal for the Daytona 500. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

Six days before the 61st running of “The Great American Race,” Daytona International Speedway announced J.J. Watt will serve as the grand marshal for the Daytona 500. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

Daytona International Speedway made the announcement Monday, six days before the 61st running of the race.

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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.

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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 is set to perform an infield concert before the race, with retired NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. serving as the honorary pace truck driver. The 82nd Airborne Division’s All-American Chorus is to sing the national anthem.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.