By Toby Christie (Follow on Twitter @Toby_Christie)
Daytona International Speedway announced that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be the honorary driver of the pace vehicle for the upcoming 61st-annual Daytona 500. Earnhardt will pace the field in a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado. According to the release, this will be the first time that a truck has been the pace vehicle for The Great American Race.
The choice of Earnhardt being the first to drive a truck as a pace vehicle at Daytona is a natural selection according to Chevrolet’s Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports Jim Campbell.
“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 Campbell. “It’ll be exciting to have Dale lead the field to green in the strongest, most advanced Silverado ever.”
Earnhardt of course, is one of the greatest drivers to ever race on the high-banks of Daytona International Speedway. Earnhardt won two Daytona 500s (2004 and 2014) as well as two Coke Zero 400s (2001 and 2015). In all, Earnhardt won a total of 17 wins at the 2.5-mile speedway in all forms of events, which puts him third all-time in the track’s prestigious history.
“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.”
Track President Chip Wiles is just excited to see one of the best to ever race at Daytona come back to pace the field.
“So much of Dale’s legacy was formed on those high banks. It will be an honor to have one of our greatest champions pace the DAYTONA 500,” said Wiles in a press release.
In an 18-year career in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Earnhardt amassed 26 victories, and he inside the top-five of the championship standings on four separare occasions (2003, 2004, 2006 and 2013). Earnhardt, a 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver, retired from full-time NASCAR competition at the end of the 2017 season.
“Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s popularity is as strong as ever,” said Wile. “We know our fans will love seeing him return to the DIS high banks – even if he will be driving a good bit slower than what he’s used to at our track.”
The track will be running a special Dale Earnhardt Jr. ticket package for the Daytona 500. There are a limited amount of the special $288 packages available, and if you’ve already bought tickets to the race, you can upgrade to the package for an additional $139.
According to the press release, the ticket package can be purchased ator by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.