Justin Gaethje will strap in behind the wheel of the pace car for a race in Phoenix this November.
Phoenix Raceway confirmed in a press release that Gaethje will drive the car for the November 12 event.
Below is more information, along with a list of fellow fighters to be pace car drivers:
At Phoenix Raceway, the fastest drivers in the sport of NASCAR are led to the green flag by the fastest hands in mixed martial arts. Since 2011, the track has invited some of the best fighters in the world to serve as the official pace car driver. We are excited to continue this tradition for the Can-Am 500, where Arizona’s own undefeated UFC® star Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje will pace the field.
Gaethje owns an impressive 18-0 mixed martial arts record after turning professional in 2011 and joined the World Series of Fighting in 2013, where he became Lightweight Champion and defended his championship title a total of five times before vacating to join the UFC in 2017.
He made his UFC debut a memorable at the “The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption Finale,” where he won a back-and-forth fight against Michael Johnson via total knock out to earn “Fight of the Night” and “Performance of the Night” honors. Less than a week later, UFC announced Gaethje will coach “The Ultimate Fighter 26” along with Eddie Alvarez, where the two will fight in the finale.
Before becoming an All-American wrestler at the University of Northern Colorado, Gaethje attended Safford High School where he was a four-time finalist and two-time Arizona state champion.
Here is a look back on some of the other top MMA stars to take the track at Phoenix:
Anderson Silva – On November 13, 2011, the UFC® middleweight champion came to Phoenix Raceway to lead the field in the Kobalt Tools 500. The self-proclaimed long-time NASCAR fan was a hit at the track as UFC’s longest reigning champion, with 14 consecutive wins.
Dominick Cruz – Dominick, from Tucson, Ariz., was a hometown hero as he paced the field of the AdvoCare 500 on November 11, 2012. After serving in the same role in the SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500™ on March 3, 2013, the former bantamweight champion and star of The Ultimate Fighter® Live continued his partnership with Phoenix Raceway as they sponsored him in a fight versus Takeya Mizugaki in Las Vegas in 2014. Dominick recently returned to the track as the honorary pace car driver in the Good Sam 500 on March 15, 2016.
Benson Henderson – In addition to sponsoring Henderson in a fight versus Anthony Pettis in August 2013, Phoenix Raceway welcomed the local fighter to serve as the honorary pace car driver in the AdvoCare 500 on November 10, 2013. A Phoenix resident, the former UFC® lightweight champion is part owner of The MMA LAB in Glendale, Ariz., and is active in the community and the growth of mixed martial arts.
Henry Cejudo – The most recent MMA star to visit Phoenix Raceway was Arizona native and Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo. Cejudo drove the pace car for the start of the Camping World 500 on March 19, 2017. He is the second youngest American to win Olympic gold for wrestling at 21 years old. He debuted in the UFC in 2014, and has a record of 11-2 in flyweight and bantamweight competition.
Chael Sonnen – Also known as “The American Gangster”, UFC fighter and FOX Sports analyst Chael Sonnen came to Phoenix Raceway as the Honorary Pace Car Driver for The Profit on CNBC 500 on March 2, 2014. When not fighting in the Octagon, Chael was the host of UFC Tonight on FS1.
Chuck Liddell – Regarded as one of the greatest light heavyweights in the history of professional mixed martial arts, the track was thrilled to have Chuck Liddell behind the wheel of the official pace car in the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 on November 9, 2014. In addition to adding pace car driver to his resume, the former light-heavyweight champion was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2009 and published an autobiography titled “Iceman: My Fighting Life,” in 2008.
Dan Henderson – Two-time Olympian and current UFC star, Henderson paced the field to green in the CampingWorld.com 500 on March 15, 2015. A former wrestler for Arizona State University, Dan owns more major tournament titles than any other athlete in MMA history, winning four different international events in three weight divisions – heavyweight, light heavyweight and middleweight.
Brian Stann – Phoenix Raceway was honored to have Marine Corp veteran as the honorary pace car driver in the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 as part of Veterans Day Weekend on November 15, 2015. Stann played middle linebacker for the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics in 2003 before serving two deployments in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The versatile fighter retired from the UFC in 2013 and is a nationally-recognized fight analyst and speaker, while also leading Hire Heroes USA, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit that empowers U.S. military members, veterans and their spouses to succeed in the civilian workforce.