During last weekend's festivities leading up to the Daytona 500, Chevrolet invited Autotropolis down to the Daytona International Speedway to get some hot laps in the car that would be pacing Sunday's big race. For this year's race, a bright red 2011 Chevrolet Camaro paced the field during caution laps, and we had a chance to experience what the car, as well as the newly paved racetrack, felt like with defending Daytona 500 winner, Jamie McMurray, behind the wheel.
This year's pace car was a Victory Red 2011 Camaro 2SS packing plenty of punch with the 6.2-liter V-8 which in this case was the 400-horsepower L99 variant that is mated to the automatic transmission and features GM's Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation system. The bone stock Camaro handled itself quite well around Daytona, and whether it was the new track surface or simply the car itself, the Camaro was surprisingly smooth around the 2.5-mile tri-oval track even at speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour. When it came to Daytona's famed turns that are banked at 31 degrees, the Camaro stuck to the turns during the high-speed runs, and, more importantly, the seats provided plenty of lateral support for the occupants even with the increased g-forces.
Even more impressive than the Camaro's smoothness was how quiet the interior was at these speeds with very little wind noise to drown out the growl of the powerful V-8. This made it easy to have a normal conversation with McMurray about his favorite parts of the car. As we exited pit road, McMurray lauded the Camaro SS for its powerful acceleration, but even as we were speeding down pit road, he seemed to be more impressed by the heads-up display (HUD) that is a new feature for 2011 and is standard on the 2SS trim level.
Unlike the iconic Summit WhiteÂ and Hugger Orange Chevy Camaro convertible that will be pacing this year's Indianapolis 500, it does not appear that General Motors plans to offer a replica Daytona 500 pace car for dealers to sell. Fortunately, with the exception of the strobe lights mounted on the roof and the orange taillights, customers can purchase an almost identical Camaro straight from their local Chevrolet dealership. Aside form the Daytona 500 decals, other minor changes include slightly different silver stripes on the hood and decklid and painted ground effects rather than grey.
Chevy started with a Camaro 2SS which has a starting MSRP of $34,295. Options on this model included the automatic transmission ($1,185), RS Package ($1,300), Ground Effects Package ($2,265), Silver Stripe Package ($470), 20-inch polished aluminium wheels ($470) and body-color painted engine cover ($285). In the end, someone looking to get a replica of this year's Daytona 500 pace car could do so for $41,270.
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross