Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer and Miss USA® Tara Conner will join an all-star line-up set for Kentucky Speedway's largest race event of the season when they serve as honorary starter and grand marshal of the June 17 NASCAR Busch Series "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo."

"We can't wait to welcome Carson Palmer and Tara Conner to our facility in front of an expected sellout crowd. They will certainly bring some additional star power to our event," Kentucky Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Mark F. Cassis said. "We're proud that one of the NFL's best quarterbacks and a reigning Miss USA will be sharing the excitement of the day."

Palmer will wave the green flag to start the "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" at 8:00 p.m. The 27-year-old was the Cincinnati Bengals No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 National Football League Draft. He started every game of his third season with the team in 2005 and guided the Bengals to the AFC North championship. Palmer ranked second in NFL in passer rating at 101.1 and led the NFL with a team-record 32 touchdown passes. He also topped the league in pass completion percentage after connecting on 67.8 percent of his attempts and ranked second in NFL pass completions with 345. He ended the season fourth overall in passing yards with 3,836 yards. The 2002 Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Southern California was named the NFL American Football Conference (AFC) Player of the Month for September and was selected FedEx Player of the Week by fans five times last season.

His impressive season ended on a sour note during the second play of the team's January 8 Wild Card playoff game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers when he suffered two torn left knee ligaments when hit after releasing a 66-yard pass completion. His rehabilitation efforts are the subject of the May 29 Sports Illustrated cover story.

In her role as race grand marshal, Conner will greet drivers during prerace ceremonies and give the command for 43 drivers to start their engines for the 300-mile battle. She became the first Kentuckian to be crowned Miss USA in Baltimore, Md., on April 21. During her one-year reign, Conner will tour the world with the United Service Organization (USO), champion breast and ovarian cancer education, research, and legislation and serve as a nationwide advocate for organizations such as the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, the National Breast Cancer Coalition, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and Gilda's Club, among others.

The 20-year-old from Russell Springs, Ky., is a business administration major at Somerset Community College and a self-described extreme sports junkie that loves rappelling, skydiving, four-wheeling, and wakeboarding on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky. The avid University of Kentucky basketball fan also enjoys playing the game and playing golf. Kentucky Speedway's June event weekend begins on "Insight Night" June 16 with NASCAR Busch Series practice and the debut of the high-speed USAC Silver Crown Series on the speedway 1.5-mile tri-oval. Speedway gates open at 4:00 p.m. and the 100-mile race is set to start at 9:00 p.m.

The speedway will feature a full day of family entertainment on June 17 when gates open at 3:00 p.m. NASCAR Busch Series "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" qualifying begins at 4:00 p.m., country music super group Lonestar takes the stage for a prerace concert at 6:00 p.m. and drivers begin their quest for the 2006 "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" title at 8:00 p.m. As many as eight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series drivers are expected to compete in the event such as inaugural series race winner Kevin Harvick, defending race champion Carl Edwards, former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series track winner Greg Biffle, 2003 NASCAR Busch Series race winner Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Reed Sorenson and J.J. Yeley.

Story by Mike Schmaltz

~ Kentucky Speedway ~