What Is a Pace Car in NASCAR? Includes Video


What Is A Pace Car?

Every NASCAR race begins with the same thing: A pace car. The pace car is a special car that leads all other cars off the start line and gradually increases speed until it hits its highest possible speed. It’s a safety measure that helps keep other cars from speeding during the race.

The pace car alleviates that stress and fear by going ahead of all other competitors before they leave their pit stall. Once it accelerates, drivers follow suit as quickly as possible to avoid being lapped or penalized for going too slowly. 

History of the Pace Car

It was introduced to NASCAR events in the 1950s when there was a higher occurrence of cars crashing or spinning out at the start of races. Bill France introduced the idea at the Daytona 500 in 1959 when he drove a Corvette up to the start line. It has been used at every NASCAR race ever since.

Many famous people have driven the pace car, including actor James Garner, President George W. Bush, and even astronaut Buzz Aldrin. It has also been driven by several famous women, including Barbara Bush, Barbara Mandrell, Lyn Nofziger, and Mary Tyler Moore.

How Does a Pace Car Work?

The race begins with a pace car that accelerates and maintains a set speed on the longest straightaway. They have a large red flag waved from the rear deck to alert drivers behind them to slow down and stay behind the lead car. Plus, a starter’s pistol is fired to signal the beginning of the race when the pace car comes to a complete stop just before crossing the finish line.

When the vehicle pulls away, the car leading the race becomes the last car on the lead lap. NASCAR cars travel faster on long straightaways like the start/finish line. The lead car is typically a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 capable of going 0-60 MPH in 3.5 seconds and 115 MPH in 15 seconds.

Are the Pace Cars the Same for Every Race?

NASCAR doesn’t use the same pace cars for every race, but they use the same model of car — the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The Camaro ZL1 is used in all Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races and sometimes in certain Xfinity Series races and other events.

The Camaro ZL1 is a supercharged V8 engine that can go 0-60 MPH in 3.5 seconds and has the highest top speed of any production car Chevrolet manufactures. NASCAR also uses different types of pace cars for different kinds of races.

For example, a hybrid version of the Camaro ZL1 known as the eAssist is used for races held at the Auto Club Speedway in California and certain other races during the year. There’s also a hybrid version of the Chevrolet Silverado known as the eForce that’s used at the races in Texas.