Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Leading the Pack: A Look Back at Phoenix Raceway’s Official Pace Car Drivers and Their MMA Ties

Chuck Liddell poses with fans during driver introductions for the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 on November 9, 2014
At Phoenix Raceway, the fastest drivers in the sport of NASCAR are led to the green flag by the fastest hands in mixed martial arts. Dating back to 2011, the track has had a tradition of putting some of the best fighters in the world behind the wheel to serve as the official pace car driver. We look forward to continuing this tradition in this hosting one of Arizona’s-own great success stories, Olympic gold medalist and UFC flyweight Henry Cejudo. On Sunday, March 19, Henry will serve as the official pace car driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Camping World 500. In honor, Phoenix Raceway takes a look back at some of the best MMA fighters that have driven the honorary lap around the one-mile oval.

Anderson Silva poses with Phoenix Raceway President Bryan R. Sperber
before leading the field in the Kobalt Tools 500 on November 13, 2011.
Anderson Silva On November 13, 2011, the UFC® middleweight champion came to Phoenix Raceway to lead the field in the Kobalt Tools 500. The self-proclaimed long-time NASCAR fan was a hit at the track as UFC’s longest reigning champion, with 14 consecutive wins.

Dominick Cruz Dominick, from Tucson, Ariz., was a hometown hero as he paced the field of the AdvoCare 500 on November 11, 2012. After serving in the same role in the SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500™ on March 3, 2013, the former bantamweight champion and star of The Ultimate Fighter® Live continued his partnership with Phoenix Raceway as they sponsored him in a fight versus Takeya Mizugaki in Las Vegas in 2014. Dominick recently returned to the track as the honorary pace car driver in the Good Sam 500 on March 15, 2016.
Benson Henderson, pace car driver for the
Advocare 500 on November 10, 2013, stands
in fronts of his MMA gym in Glendale, Ariz.
Benson Henderson – In addition to sponsoring Henderson in a fight versus Anthony Pettis in August 2013, Phoenix Raceway welcomed the local fighter to serve as the honorary pace car driver in the AdvoCare 500 on November 10, 2013. A Phoenix resident, the former UFC® lightweight champion is part owner of The MMA LAB in Glendale, Ariz., and is active in the community and the growth of mixed martial arts.

Chael Sonnen –
Also known as “The American Gangster”, UFC fighter and FOX Sports analyst Chael Sonnen came to Phoenix Raceway as the Honorary Pace Car Driver for The Profit on CNBC 500 on March 2, 2014. When not fighting in the Octagon, Chael was the host of UFC Tonight on FS1.

Chuck Liddell Regarded as one of the greatest light heavyweights in the history of professional mixed martial arts, the track was thrilled to have Chuck Liddell behind the wheel of the official pace car in the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 on November 9, 2014. In addition to adding pace car driver to his resume, the former light-heavyweight champion was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2009 and published an autobiography titled "Iceman: My Fighting Life," in 2008.

Dan Henderson waves to the crowd at driver introductions
for the Camping 500 on March 15, 2015.
Dan Henderson (March 2015) Two-time Olympian and current UFC star, Henderson paced the field to green in the 500 on March 15, 2015. A former wrestler for Arizona State University, Dan owns more major tournament titles than any other athlete in MMA history, winning four different international events in three weight divisions – heavyweight, light heavyweight and middleweight.

Brian Stann – Phoenix Raceway was honored to have this Marine Corp Veteran as the honorary pace car driver in the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 as part of Veterans Day Weekend on November 15, 2015. Stann played middle linebacker for the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics in 2003 before serving two deployments in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The versatile fighter retired from the UFC in 2013 and is a nationally-recognized fight analyst and speaker, while also leading Hire Heroes USA, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit that empowers U.S. military members, veterans and their spouses to succeed in the civilian workforce.

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