Jeff Gordon is not used to this.
Never has the four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion paced the field in a car that was not his racecar. Never has he looked out the windshield before a race to see nothing.
Even when he won 81 Cup Series poles, there was always one thing in front of him: The pace car.
But come Sunday’s 59th annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, that will change.
“Certainly, a lot changed for me being up in the broadcast booth last year,” Gordon said. “That’s going to be taken to a whole different level because not only am I going to be pacing, which I’m honored. It’s such an honor to drive the pace car for the Daytona 500.”
Gordon will pilot the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 come Sunday, leading the field to the green flag for the Great American Race.
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“Did you hear that thing fire up?” Gordon asked rhetorically to the media with a grin on his face. “What a sound. I cannot wait to get on the gas and get to drive this.”
Not only is Gordon going to drive the pace car, but he will also be speaking with NASCAR on Fox analyst Darrell Waltrip and lead commentator Mike Joy during the broadcast to “start it off right,” Gordon said.
The new Camaro goes from 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, and it is capable of reaching a maximum speed of 200 mph. Sunday’s Camaro will feature a grey scheme as Gordon takes the wheel.
“In 2005, when I last won this race, Matthew McConaughey was the pace car driver,” Gordon said. “This, to me, you go down the list of prestigious things I’ve done, this is right up at the top of the list.”
Gordon piloted the pace car during the 2015 Indianapolis 500, driving a Chevrolet Corvette.
Gordon’s former ride, the No. 24 Chevrolet, will be right behind him when he hits the track on Sunday afternoon. His replacement, Chase Elliott, put his racecar on the pole for the second straight season, marking the third Daytona 500 pole in a row for car No. 24.
“He gained a lot of knowledge and experience last year,” Gordon said. “But now, he’s a quick study. We’ve seen him do this in other races, where he learns really fast.
Elliott won his first race in NASCAR’s premier division Thursday evening, taking the crown in the first Can-Am Duel.
It should. Gordon’s first triumph was in the 1993 Duels. He went on to win four more throughout the course of his career.
Said Gordon, “Hopefully, it is going to lead to Daytona 500 wins, Brickyard 400 wins and championships soon.”
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