NASCAR announced Wednesday that long-time official Kim Lopez will be the chief starter for Sunday’s 57th running of the Daytona 500. She will become the first woman and first Hispanic to flag the Great American Race, which begins live on FOX at 1 p.m. ET.
Lopez, 33, is in her 11th season with NASCAR and has flagged races for the past seven years in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. She also flagged two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races last year, but couldn’t attend the Daytona 500 following the birth of her daughter just three weeks before the race.
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"I think this is awesome," said Lopez, a native of Bronx, New York. "You have little girls who can now look up and say, ‘I can do this someday, I can be this someday. If I put my mind to it and work hard, I can make it happen.’"
The chief starter plays an essential role during the race, displaying the eight flags that tell the best drivers in the world to start, slow down, move over or stop. It’s a role that Lopez won’t take for granted on Sunday when the field maneuvers beneath her at speeds of more than 200 mph.
Lopez also will have the honor of waving the checkered flag when the winner crosses the finish line and etches his or her name in NASCAR history.
"Kim will serve as chief starter, because she’s among the best in the world at what she does," said Chad Little, NASCAR managing director, Technical Inspection and Officiating. "She has pursued her dreams in uncharted territory and we’re excited to see her dreams come true when she flags the Daytona 500."