The 61st running of the Daytona 500 will have something new and something very familiar for NASCAR fans. For the first time, the pace car will actually be a pace truck with none other than future Hall of Fame NASCAR driver and two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel. Only instead of his usual Chevrolet race car, Dale Jr. will be driving a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado.
This will be the 13th time that a Chevrolet has paced the Daytona 500, with the Camaro taking the duties seven times and the Corvette pacing the race five times. This won’t be the first time a Chevrolet truck has paced a major American motorsports event, however, as the Chevy SSR was the pace truck for the 2003 Indianapolis 500.
Featuring a unique paint scheme, the Silverado pace truck will sport the Camaro’s Hyper Blue color, and just like the Camaro SS, this pace truck will be powered by the 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8. Unfortunately, Chevrolet has no plans to produce a replica version of this pace truck.
“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,” Dale Jr. said in a Chevrolet press release. “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.”
For most of his career, Junior — who delved into the highs and lows of his racing career in the 2018 autobiography Racing to the Finish: My Story — was NASCAR’s most popular driver. As a Cup Series driver, he was always especially dominant at high-speed, restrictor plate races such as Daytona.
The JR Motorsports owner also tallied three wins at Daytona in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (formerly the Nationwide Series) as well as a second-place finish in the 2001 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race. Dale Jr. stepped away from full-time racing in 2017, and for the 2018 NASCAR season, he was an NBC Sports commentator alongside former crew chief Steve Letarte.