Shaquille O'Neal (left), Kevin James (second from right) and Adam Sandler (far right) will be Grand Marshals and give the command to start engines at Saturday's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures)

Kevin James, Adam Sandler, Shaquille O’Neal to rock the house at Daytona on Saturday

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In the last decade or so, there arguably has been no better version of the command to start engines prior to a NASCAR race than actor Kevin James.

He not only raised the bar, he sent it into the stratosphere prior to the 2007 Daytona 500.

In 2010, James and good buddy Adam Sandler tried a 1-2 punch (which likely didn’t go over quite as good as they may have hoped) at Michigan Speedway.

Then last October at Talladega, James reprised his 2007 Daytona classic at NASCAR’s other restrictor plate track.

Get ready for James to do it again this Saturday at the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. And while he’ll do the start engines command with Sandler again, there’ll be a third member that’ll join the party, none other than the big man himself, Shaquille O’Neal.

All three will give not only give drivers the command to fire their engines, they’ll also serve as the race’s Grand Marshals, while also promoting the July 12 release of their new movie, “Grown Ups 2.”

“We’re pleased to welcome three of the stars of ‘Grown Ups 2’ and have them take part in the pre-race ceremonies for one of NASCAR’s most exciting nighttime races,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said in a statement. “Combining Adam Sandler, Kevin James and Shaquille O’Neal, we’re expecting a boisterous and powerful starting command in front of thousands of race fans and millions more watching on TNT.”

Even if the race winds up being a snoozer, something tells me the pre-race start is going to be unforgettable.

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

Photo: Getty Images
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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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