Kim Lopez named chief starter for Daytona 500; first woman and Hispanic to flag race

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Longtime race official Kim Lopez has been named chief starter for Sunday’s Daytona 500, becoming the first woman and Hispanic to flag NASCAR’s biggest race.

Lopez has worked with NASCAR for 11 years and has flagged races in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series for the past seven years. She flagged two Sprint Cup races last year but was unable to attend the 500, which came three weeks after the birth of her daughter.

Kim will serve as chief starter, because she’s among the best in the world at what she does,” Chad Little, NASCAR managing director for technical inspection and officiating said in a statement. “She has pursued her dreams in uncharted territory and we’re excited to see her dreams come true when she flags the Daytona 500.”

Said Lopez of her opportunity: “I think this is awesome. 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.’ ”

As chief starter, Lopez will be in charge of displaying the eight flags to drivers during Sunday’s race: Green (to start), yellow (caution), red (stop), black (to respond to a decision from NASCAR in five laps), black with white stripe (which tells a driver he/she’s no longer being scored), blue with yellow stripe (move over for faster traffic), white (final lap ), and checkered (end of race).