When we first heard that Chevrolet had invited us out to drive the 2017 Camaro ZL1 500 miles from Hendrick Motorsports in Charolette, North Carolina to the Daytona 500 (stay tuned for the full story), we figured that maybe the ZL1 would be pacing the historic race. And, as of today, that hunch has been confirmed.
Chevrolet rolled out the new Daytona 500 pace car at a conference held this morning at the site of the 59th running of the race. Not only did they roll out the official pace car but the driver as well. Typically the pace car driver is a celebrity that lacks any automotive chops and has to be baby sat while they lead the gaggle of 200+ mph stock cars anxiously waiting behind them. This time, however, was different.
As the car rolled from the garage, we immediately recognized the face. Turns out, none other than Jeff Gordon will be leading the field as the green flag drops. Gordon, who retired in 2012, said he was excited to lead the field and is tempted to just go for it when the green flag drops.
“It’s going to be tough not to just go for it when the green flag drops,” Joked Gordon. “The ZL1 has enough power that it could probably keep up.”
We can attest to that and honestly it’s not all that far fetched seeing as how the ZL1’s top speed is 198 mph (202.3 with a tail wind) and it’s acceleration is second to none. It might not be able to keep up in the corners, but down the back straight it would give anything a run for its money. Maybe we’re being optimistic but we are that impressed with the car. And it turns out Jeff Gordon is just as impressed as well.
“I remember when 300 horsepower was big for a street car,” Gordon said. “We’re over double that now with this new ZL1 Camaro, so I love how Chevrolet is pushing the envelope to bring that kind of performance to the street but also learn from what they are doing in racing and marry those two together.”
While driving the pace car may not be as prestigious as taking the checkered flag at the Daytona 500, Gordon said that it is still a huge honor for him.
“I’m honored,” Gordon said. “It truly is an honor to drive the pace car for the Daytona 500.”
Chevrolet tells us that there is another reveal going down at the paddock today and we are excited to see what it is. Everyone here is speculating that Chevrolet might give us a peak under the skirt of the new Z/28 or possibly even the ZR1. Whether that is true or not is yet to be foreseen, but we can’t help be excited for what is coming.
What do you think the car will be? Leave us your guess in the comments and we will be doing the unveil live on Facebook later in the day, so stay tuned.
Author: Chase Christensen