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Need for Speed: Carter Verhaeghe is Grand Marshal at Daytona

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Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe celebrates after scoring the winning goal in overtime in Game 6 of the opening round of the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs in Washington. Verhaeghe will be the Grand Marshal for the NASCAR Cup Series’ Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona on Saturday night which will be broadcast on NBC. — AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Carter Verhaeghe of the Florida Panthers already has a Stanley Cup championship on his resume but after Saturday, he can add something else: Grand Marshal of a NASCAR  Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

Verhaeghe, who signed on with the Panthers a few weeks after winning the Cup with Tampa Bay in 2020, will have a variety of responsibilities before the Coke Zero Sugar 400 including telling the drivers to “start their engines.”

The race will be broadcast on NBC-6 starting Saturday at 7 p.m.

UPDATE: Due to heavy rain up north, the race has been postponed until Sunday at 10 a.m. on CNBC.

Verhaeghe leads a long list of Panthers who have an affinity for speed although he is the first to serve as grand marshal at Daytona.

In 2019, Jonathan Huberdeau — who has been known to own his share of fast cars — was the official starter for the NASCAR championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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Craig Anderson is also a bit of a speed freak and has attended numerous races including the Indianapolis 500.

Anderson, a goalie with Florida from 2006-09, also raced his own cars at Palm Beach International Raceway before it closed earlier this year.

Anderson’s father Richard drove professionally and even raced in the downtown Grand Prix of Miami in the 1980s.

Verhaeghe, who turned 27 earlier this month, had a career year with the Panthers this past season.

Playing mostly on the top line with Sasha Barkov — who also like fast cars — Verhaeghe scored 24 goals with 55 points in 78 regular season games.

In the playoffs, Verhaeghe set a Florida postseason record by scoring six goals with 12 points in a single series against the Washington Capitals.

Verhaeghe daytona

Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau was able to take a couple laps around Homestead-Miami Speedway in a Ford Shelby Mustang before the start of the 2013-14 season. — Photo courtesy @SoFlaFord

Verhaeghe scored the game-winning goal in Florida’s final three games of that series including the one in overtime on May 13 in overtime which gave the Panthers their first playoff series win since 1996.

Saturday night’s race is the final non-playoff run on the NASCAR Cup series schedule and is 400 miles (160 laps) around the 2.5-mile tri-oval.

The series returns to Homestead for the Dixie Vodka 400 which is in the playoff Round of 8 and is the third-to-last race of the 2022 season.

The Panthers are unlikely to have anyone work the pregame of that 2:30 p.m. race what with them playing host to the New York Islanders at 5 that day.

There is an Xfinity Series race on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. they could attend, however.

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