USA TODAY Sports
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Recently retired Super Bowl winning linebacker Ray Lewis is the honorary starter for the Daytona 500 and was in the media center before the race to talk about waiving the green flag and comparisons between NASCAR and the NFL.
Lewis is a close friend of defending Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski after the driver became a fan of his motivational videos on Youtube. Keselowski cited the Baltimore Ravens' star as an inspiration and reached out to Lewis. The two formed a fast friendship and they've been in close contact leading up to the start of the Daytona 500.
"I was a little nervous," Lewis said of preparing to waive the flag. "Brad says the one rule is that I don't drop the flag so I'm nervous but definitely excited."
Lewis joins T.I. and 50 Cent as Daytona attendees not fitting in NASCAR's typical demographic. Lewis thinks that could change as more black sports fans gain exposure to the industry.
"I think, already, the things we indulge in are pretty massive," Lewis said. "In general, we're just art fans. We like hockey, lacrosse and anything that tests our physical and athletic limitations. I think the way these guys control the cars is really impressive.
"I drive my cars fast but not like that."
Lewis joked that he had spent a few days training in preparation for waving the flag. He's comfortable now that he's seen Daytona and experienced the atmosphere. Lewis remarked that it feels very similar to the NFL game day atmosphere and that the familiarity will get him through it.
"I'm going to squeeze the flag very hard," Lewis said. "I want to watch this and be a part of it. To be here is an awesome experience."
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