The Rock, Pitbull, DJ Khaled bring South Florida flavor to Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 3-0-5 took over the Daytona 5-0-0.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Pitbull and DJ Khaled represented South Florida at the Daytona 500, as the trio of Sunshine State celebrities brought a dose of star power to Sunday’s scheduled race day that was washed out by rain.

Johnson, the wrestler/actor, said he would stay for Monday’s rescheduled race and honor his role as Daytona 500 grand marshal and give the command for drivers to start their engines.

Pitbull was scheduled to perform the pre-race concert in the Daytona infield, but it was scrapped because of steady rain. He agreed to return in 2025 for the same event. Khaled said he unable to stay Monday for his role as honorary starter.

The last time the Daytona 500 was postponed a full day was in 2012.

“Who would have ever thought,” Pitbull said, “The Rock, Khaled and Pit at the Daytona 500?”

Khaled moved to Miami — home of the 305 area code — in 1998 to kickstart a radio career that led to Grammy wins and a successful run as DJ, producer, and song writer. Known as “Mr. Worldwide,” Pitbull was born in Miami and named his debut album “M.I.A.M.I.” before he released massive hits such as “Timber” and “Fireball.”

“It’s incredible to see us all come together for the Daytona 500,” Khaled said. “But to represent Florida is beautiful.”

The 51-year-old Johnson is set to return to wrestling for WrestleMania in April in Philadelphia. The “Fast and the Furious” franchise star played at Miami and was a reserve on the team’s 1991 national championship team.

“Best college in Florida,” Johnson said.

The A-listers stuck around the track to promote their current projects.

Johnson posted an Instagram video of himself driving past Daytona International Speedway late Saturday night, joking he was “up to no good. Trouble. With a capital T.”

“I got a little cooky last night because I couldn’t sleep,” Johnson said Sunday. “I went to the gym at midnight. I drove by the Speedway, all the lights were on, just immediately felt the energy.”

The Rock offered some advice to NASCAR villain Denny Hamlin: roll with it.

Johnson, whose recent return to the WWE has come in a heel role, said Hamlin should embrace the boos and make them part of his racing persona.

Hamlin, a three-time Daytona 500 winner, has suddenly become public enemy No. 1 in the Cup Series. He gets jeered more than Kyle Busch when he wins and has leaned into it a little by saying things like “I just beat your favorite driver.”

The Rock would like to see more.

“Being the villain is the greatest thing in the world,” The Rock said. “Everybody wants to be a good guy or good girl, everyone wants to be loved and cheered and considered the hero, which is great and it’s natural; it’s just human psychology and desire.

“But I have felt in my career and through my experience — that I’ve been very fortunate to have — is that the rare air is when you have the opportunity and you grab it by the throat and you don’t let it go and that’s the opportunity to be a great bad guy.”

Johnson has experienced both sides as an actor and as a professional wrestler.

“I always think that the best and greatest bad guys, bad girls and villains out there are coming from a place of truth. So one of the cool things that being a great bad guy and a great villain offers — and this is my advice to Denny — is not only do you embrace it, but also you get the opportunity to say and do a lot of things that people can’t.

“A lot of people wish they can, but they don’t. So you don’t have to. Let me and Denny do the talking and get the boos.”

Pitbull still considers himself a NASCAR underdog.

Despite six wins and 36 top-five finishes in three seasons as co-owner at Trackhouse Racing, the Grammy Award-winning singer says “this is just the beginning.”

“Underdogs, one thing we love is a challenge,” Pitbull said. “We love when people tell us no, don’t, won’t, never will happen, crazy, stupid, impossible. Those are words that fuel us.”

He then explained how easy it is to flip those from negative to positive: changing can’t to can, don’t to do and won’t to won.

“And if you really put it together, just put an apostrophe between I, M and Possible, it’s I’m possible,” he added.

“So when you bring that mentality to a whole sport who is hungry to feed the world and teach different communities, different cultures that, ‘Hey, there’s opportunities here,’ then you in the ultimate world of do good and be well.

“So for Trackhouse to be underdogs, that was a beautiful thing in the beginning, but we’ll forever be underdogs and that’s why we’ll fight the way that we fight and we’ll continue to build the way that we build and continue to inspire and motivate others out there.”

Pitbull, who co-owns the team with retired driver Justin Marks, now has two full-time cars driven by Ross Chastain and Daniel Suárez. He also fields a third car at select races for road-racing specialist Shane van Gisbergen.

He recently released a new NASCAR-themed album featuring songs with Tim McGraw, Dolly Parton and Nile Rodgers. He also has a song dedicated to the late Jimmy Buffett.

Could DJ Khaled add NASCAR team owner ready to win, win, win no matter what to his already loaded resume of hype man, producer, writer?

Khaled says he’s the one.

Khaled said he envisioned a time when he would return to the Daytona 500, not as part of race day entertainment, but as a celebrity owner much like Pitbull and 23XI Racing’s Michael Jordan.

“I would love to be a team owner,” Khaled said. “Look at Michael Jordan, the beautiful things he’s doing. All the other great team owners. One day, God willing, I’ll have a ‘We the Best’ car out there, bringing home a trophy.”

NASCAR is littered with celebrities who have moved through media centers making the same bold statements about team ownership without a deal ever panning out. Khaled said he’s been a race fan since childhood.

The DJ-producer, whose real name is Khaled Mohamed Khaled, said he attended a Daytona 500 or two as a kid because of his love of cars. Khaled brought his wife and two young sons with him to the track.

Khaled flexed when he said he put his hands in the air and practiced waving the green flag.

He also teased new music would drop soon.

“Everybody take it easy, the title is coming soon,” Khaled said to laughter standing over the Harley J. Earl Trophy. “It’s going to touch everybody worldwide.”


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