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Daytona 500's First Woman Chief Starter Is Latina Kim Lopez

NASCAR Names Kim Lopez Chief Starter for 57th Daytona 500
Kim Lopez, Chief Starter for the 57th Daytona 500 poses for a photo in the flagstand at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.Chris Graythen / NASCAR via Getty Images

Kim Lopez will become the first woman and first Hispanic to be the chief starter for Sunday’s 57th running of the Daytona 500.

Lopez has expressed pride in being the first woman as well as the first Latina.

"You have little girls who can now look up and say ‘I can do this someday, I can be this some day. If I put my mind to it and work hard, I can make it happen,” said the 33-year-old Bronx native in a press release.

In an interview with the news agency EFE, Lopez said in Spanish, "That I am there, doing this work in what is considered to be the "Super Bowl" of NASCAR, is proof that Hispanics can do whatever they set out to do. I am very proud to represent my community." Lopez is of Puerto Rican heritage.

NASCAR Names Kim Lopez Chief Starter for 57th Daytona 500
Kim Lopez, Chief Starter for the 57th Daytona 500 poses for a photo in the flagstand at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.Chris Graythen / NASCAR via Getty Images

The chief starter displays the eight flags that tell drivers to start, slow down, move over or stop. Lopez will also wave the checkered flag when the winner crosses the finish line.

Lopez has been with NASCAR for 11 seasons and has flagged races for the past sevens years in NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. She also flagged two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races last year. She said she got interested in the profession when her family moved from New York to North Carolina. Though her family won't be in Daytona, Lopez told EFE her relatives in North Carolina and New York will be supporting her in the "most important day of her life."

--Kelly Carrion

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