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Former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning leads the field at the Daytona 500

Peyton Manning, with his hands firmly gripping the steering wheel at the "10 and 2" positions, has led the one of the youngest Daytona 500 fields in history to the green flag.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Peyton Manning, with his hands firmly gripping the steering wheel at the "10 and 2" positions, has led the one of the youngest Daytona 500 fields in history to the green flag.



Manning had just 20 minutes of practice on the high-banked Daytona International Speedway and seemed overwhelmed as he navigated the track. A NASCAR official in the passenger seat helped guide the wheel as Manning drove through the turn.

"I've been upright and on my back, but I've never been sideways," Manning joked to the Fox Sports broadcasting booth.

He also noted that pole-sitter Alex Bowman was in position to pass Manning in the pace car. When Jeff Gordon asked Manning if he wanted to stay on the track for a few laps, Manning said he'd prefer to stay in his lane.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave a raucous command to start the engines, and Fox analyst Darrell Waltrip opened the race by saying "Danica Sue, this is for you, Boogity! Boogity! Boogity!" Danica Patrick is retiring from NASCAR after the Daytona 500.

Peyton Manning walked the red carpet at the Daytona 500 after a brief practice as pace car driver for "The Great American Race."

Manning was trailed by his son, Marshall, and the two posed alongside the Harley J. Earl trophy. When asked how much time he had in the pace car, Manning said "not much. About 20 minutes."

Manning had the cap of a Sharpie pen in his mouth as he signed autographs while walking into the pre-race driver meeting. He also said he was rooting for pole-sitter Alex Bowman, who is sponsored by Manning-endorsed Nationwide.

Manning is the bigger of the NFL MVP's at Sunday's race. The five-time MVP quarterback was in an official capacity, while two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers is at the race as the boyfriend of Danica Patrick. Rodgers has yet to publicly comment on the new relationship or his time in Daytona. He arrived Wednesday and watched Patrick compete in a qualifying race from atop her pit box Thursday night.

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