Fans of the bowtie brand and NASCAR will have something extra to celebrate when next year’s running of the Daytona 500 kicks off on February 17th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., himself a two-time Daytona 500 winner, will drive a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck to pace the field in the 61st running of The Great American Race. Never before has a pickup truck served as pace vehicle for the Super Bowl of NASCAR.
“I’ve had a lot of fun and a lot of success at Daytona over the years, and now I can’t wait to get out on that track in a Silverado,” said Earnhardt Jr. “Away from the track I’ve driven Chevy trucks all my life, and I’m excited to have this unique experience of pacing the Daytona 500 with the Silverado.”
Junior’s found his way to victory lane twice in The Great American Race, in 2004 and 2014. He’s also won the 400 in July a brace of times in addition to 13 top 5 finishes and 19 top 10s. For fifteen consecutive years, Earnhardt Jr. was voted the sport’s Most Popular Driver.
“Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the perfect choice to pace the race because of his enthusiasm for the sport, his long history with Chevrolet and his love of trucks,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “It’ll be exciting to have Dale lead the field to green in the strongest, most advanced Silverado ever.”
The Silverado pace truck will logically be packing the biggest engine available in the new Silverado, a burly 6.2L V8 hook delivering 420 horsepower and 460lb.-ft of torque. That’s an engine currently only available in LTZ and High Country trims of the 2019 Silverado. The pace truck rendering shows a lot of parallel to the pickup’s sporty RST model, a trim which currently only offers a choice between the 2.7L four-banger and 5.3L V8 engine.
Note to Chevy, if you’re listening: this author firmly believes more than a few of the extroverts who’d buy a look-at-me RST (*raises hand*) would pop for the hand-of-god 6.2L V8.
Chevrolet has paced the Daytona 500 exactly a dozen times in the past, deploying a Camaro seven times and five consecutive years from 2004-2008 with the Corvette.
While this is the first time a pickup has paced the spring Daytona race, it isn’t the only time an unexpected vehicle has been chosen for the job. In 2001, GM pressed the Pontiac Aztek into pace duty, while the 1971 race inexplicably featured a Porsche 914 on point.
Speedweeks for the 61st running of the Daytona 500 begin on February 9th with the green flag dropping at 2:30pm ET on February 17th.
Corvette Grand Sport is the Official Pace car of the 2017 Indy 500
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