The NASCAR Cup Series heads out west on Sunday, June 6, for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Track officials will celebrate the occasion by bringing in a successful NFL figure to serve as grand marshal. San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will tell the drivers to start their engines prior to the road course race.
“I am excited and honored to be the Grand Marshal for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 this weekend,” Shanahan said in a statement from Sonoma Raceway. “This will be my first NASCAR event, and I’m thrilled that I get to share this amazing experience with my family. I can’t wait to fire up a field of NASCAR stock cars.”
Shanahan is entering his fifth season as the head coach of the 49ers. He has led the team to a 29-35 record while dealing with a rotating cast of quarterbacks due to injuries. Shanahan also orchestrated a 2019 season in which the 49ers reached Super Bowl LIV but lost to the Chiefs.
The 49ers Coach is the Latest NFL Figure to Join Pre-Race Festivities
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season has featured several prominent figures from the world of football. Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey got behind the wheel of the Toyota Camry TRD at Charlotte Motor Speedway and served as the honorary pace car driver for the Coca-Cola 600. Similarly, Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher served as the grand marshal for an iRacing Pro Invitational Series race in virtual Chicago on Wednesday, June 2.
The season featured two other special guests from the NFL who delivered the most famous words in motorsports. Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa gave the command prior to the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr also did so at the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Prior to the race at Kansas Speedway, another figure from Super Bowl LIV joined the pre-race broadcast. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes filmed a special segment with Fox Sports analyst Clint Bowyer and TV star Eric Stonestreet. He jumped into an iRacing rig and raced against Bowyer and two-time Cup Series champion Kyle Busch. Stonestreet served as Mahomes’ spotter and tried to orchestrate some massive virtual wrecks.
Shanahan Has a History of Success in the NFL
The son of two-time Super Bowl champion Mike Shanahan, the 49ers head coach grew up around the NFL. He served as a ball boy for the Bay Area team when Mike was the offensive coordinator from 1992-1994. Years later, 26-year-old Shanahan became the youngest position coach in the NFL when he became the wide receivers coach for the Houston Texans in 2006. Head coach Gary Kubiak promoted Shanahan to offensive coordinator two years later, making him the youngest OC in the NFL.
Since making history as the youngest position coach, Shanahan has served as one of the NFL’s best offensive coordinators. He spent nine seasons as an OC, split between the Atlanta Falcons (2015-16), Cleveland Browns (2014), Washington Football Team (2010-13), and Houston Texans (2008-09).
In 2016, Shanahan earned AP NFL Assistant Coach of the Year honors after directing the league’s best offense and helping the Falcons reach Super Bowl LI. The team did not defeat the Patriots during the championship game, but quarterback Matt Ryan ended the season as the reigning MVP after successfully running Shanahan’s offense.