LEGENDARY BEARS COACH MIKE DITKA NAMED HONORARY STARTER FOR O’REILLY AUTO PARTS ROUTE 66 NHRA NATIONALS

Danni Allen to Sing National Anthem on Championship Sunday, the Explosive Finale in a Weekend Full of Stars and Cars

Ditka

Route 66 Raceway today announced Mike Ditka, Pro Football Hall of Famer and Super Bowl-winning coach, as the Honorary Starter for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, June 27-30. Ditka will also be joined by Wheeling, Ill., native Danni Allen, season 14 winner on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser”, who will be singing the national anthem. This will follow the Track Walk.

Both Ditka and Allen will be available for autograph sessions on Sunday
. Mike Ditka's autograph session will occur at 9 a.m. at the O'Reilly Auto Parts display. Danni Allen's will occur at 1 p.m. at the Route 66 Raceway Social Hub in Nitro Alley.

“Iron Mike” is one of only two people to ever win the Super Bowl as a player (Dallas, 1972), assistant coach (Dallas, 1977) and head coach (Chicago, 1986). During his 12-year NFL playing career, Ditka was named NFL Rookie of the Year and selected All-Pro six times. As an assistant coach for Dallas, Ditka’s teams reached the playoffs eight times. In 1982, “Da Coach” assumed the head coaching job of the Chicago Bears, where he led his teams to six NFC Central titles, three NFC championship game appearances and the Super Bowl XX title (1986) for which he was named Coach of the Year. He earned the same honor in 1988 after coaching the Bears to the NFC championship game. Ditka retired from coaching in 2000. Today, with a combined 26 years of NFL experience, Coach Ditka acts as an analyst on Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown and makes regular appearances on ESPN Radio and SportsCenter.

Allen, 26, lost an impressive 121 pounds during her time on The Biggest Loser, and her passion for singing has led her to performing at Nashville’s famed Grand Ole Opry. A graduate of Clemson University, Allen plans to run the 2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon as she continues her remarkable journey.

The NHRA Nationals begin with Friday Night on Fire, featuring the first night of qualifying for the stars of NHRA followed by a jet car finale. The following day, All-Star Saturday celebrates Route 66 Raceway’s 15th Anniversary season and the second round of qualifying before Championship Sunday. The weekend wraps up with prestigious Championship Sunday, marking the finale of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals. Championship Sunday features an all-access experience for fans including a track walk, driver introductions and a Winner’s Circle celebration. In 2012, Antron Brown emerged victorious in the Top Fuel class on Championship Sunday and went on to become the NHRA Top Fuel World Champion.

Tickets start as low as $41 with a full-weekend of heart-pounding racing available for just $135. Every ticket is a pit pass, giving you a chance to meet drivers, see the cars up close and view interactive displays in “Nitro Alley.” With Two Nights of Nitro leading into Championship Sunday, there will be no shortage of action in the first true Stadium of Drag Racing.

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