DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 1, 2008) – Former Daytona 500 champion Junior Johnson, who claimed 50 NASCAR victories including the 1960 edition of “The Great American Race,” will be behind the wheel of a 2008 Corvette Z06 as he paces the field before the start of the historic 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway.
“Having a NASCAR legend like Junior Johnson pace the field of the historic 50th running of the Daytona 500 is a perfect fit,” said Speedway President Robin Braig. “We’re proud to call Junior a Daytona 500 champion and proud to have him get the most anticipated event in racing history underway.”
Inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990 and named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, the North Carolina native claimed his Daytona 500 victory in only his second season in NASCAR competition. That memorable win was behind the wheel of the No. 27 John Masoni Daytona Kennel Club Chevrolet Impala.
“We are honored to have one of the sport’s greatest pioneers drive a Z06 Corvette pace car at the 50th running of NASCAR’s ‘Great American Race’”, said Ed Peper, general manager of Chevrolet. “Along with recognizing Junior Johnson’s 50 NASCAR wins and NASCAR’s 50th Daytona 500, Chevrolet is thrilled to mark 50 years of the Impala in 2008. It’s just a great match.
“To have Junior Johnson pace the golden anniversary of the Daytona 500 in a Z06 Corvette is a special way to celebrate the heritage, performance, and success of Chevrolet in NASCAR,” added Peper.
Johnson’s 50 NASCAR race wins make him one of the most successful drivers of his era. In fact, of those 50 victories, 23 were in GM products: five in Oldsmobiles, eight in Pontiacs, and 10 in Chevrolets. Of those 10 Chevy wins, seven were in the famous No. 3 Holly Farms Impala. As a car owner, Johnson claimed 139 victories and six championships in NASCAR’s top division while employing legendary drivers Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough.
Johnson joins past drivers who have paced “The Great American Race” including Baseball “Iron Man” Cal Ripken Jr., Actor Ben Affleck and Tonight Show host Jay Leno.
This is the 37th consecutive year that General Motors has provided the Daytona 500 with the Official Pace Vehicle, and the fifth year running that Chevrolet has chosen Corvette for the job. The ‘08 Corvette Z06 will be decked out in “anniversary gold” in honor of the occasion, making it one of Chevy’s most uniquely designed pace cars.
Race tickets for the DIRECTV Speedweeks 2008 events are still available by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or by visiting www.racetickets.com