Daytona 500: Pace car driver Ripken - GM interview

Three Decades Later Chevrolet Still As American As Baseball, Hot Dogs And Apple Pie Chevrolet Continues Its American Traditions With The "Iron Man" Of Baseball Driving A Chevy Corvette To Pace The "Great American Race" In 1975 Chevrolet...

Three Decades Later Chevrolet Still As American As Baseball, Hot Dogs And Apple Pie

Chevrolet Continues Its American Traditions With The "Iron Man" Of Baseball Driving A Chevy Corvette To Pace The "Great American Race"

In 1975 Chevrolet debuted its famous advertising campaign touting Chevrolet being as American as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. More than 30 years later Chevrolet's national patriotism is just as strong. The brand will continue the celebration of its American roots at the Daytona 500 by inviting baseball great Cal Ripken, Jr. to drive a Corvette to pace the field at NASCAR's "Great American Race."

"Today you still can't get any more American than baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet," said Ed Peper, general manager of Chevrolet. "We are honored to have Cal Ripken, Jr., the 'Iron Man' of baseball, drive a Corvette at the Daytona 500 where Chevrolet has fittingly proven itself as the 'Iron Man' manufacturer of this race."

On Feb. 18 Ripken will get behind the wheel of a specially painted red, white and blue 2007 Corvette Z06 to mark the 36th straight year that General Motors has provided the Official Pace Vehicle of the Daytona 500. In his first pace car driver appearance, Ripken will be driving the fastest vehicle ever offered by Chevrolet and GM. The Corvette Z06 has a top speed of 198 mph and will go from 0-60 in 3.7 seconds. The vehicle's 505-horsepower output is actually more than the power produced by the race cars that will compete in the Daytona 500 due to the restrictor plate rule established for the Daytona and Talladega, Ala. race tracks.

The Daytona 500 Corvette Z06 pace car that Ripken will pilot features an American-themed design with bold stripes of pearl white, candy red and candy blue hues. The dramatic paint scheme was selected to commemorate American traditions in the 49th running of the event.

"We selected this special red, white and blue paint scheme to celebrate the Daytona 500's heritage as being the Great American Race and Chevrolet's heritage of Corvette being one of America's greatest sports cars," said Kip Wasenko, director of design for GM specialty vehicles. "The artistic and free-flowing design was also created with shapes inspired by aerodynamics, which is a key element to performance in NASCAR competition."

"This is a tremendous honor and something that I am very excited about," said Ripken. "I am proud to have had a relationship with Chevy for over 15 years and I want to thank them and Daytona International Speedway for bestowing this incredible honor on me. The Daytona 500 is one of the greatest sporting events in our country and the idea of being a part of it is a thrill."

Ripken made the Major League Baseball (MLB) record books by playing 2,632 consecutive games spanning across 16 seasons to surpass Lou Gehrig's 56-year record of 2,130 games, earning Ripken the nickname of baseball's "Iron Man." In his impressive 21-year baseball career with the Baltimore Orioles, Ripken hit 431 home runs, recorded 3,184 hits and drove in 1,695 RBIs. Ripken was recently voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and boasts additional baseball honors including two-time American League MVP, two-time Gold Glove winner and a 19-time MLB All-Star.

While Ripken holds the "Iron Man" title in baseball, Chevrolet can claim the name of "Iron Man" manufacturer for the Daytona 500. With 19 total victories, Chevrolet has more wins of this race than any other manufacturer. Chevrolet's record-number of victories at the Great American Race include last year's race winner and Nextel Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson. Johnson joined the ranks of 13 other Chevrolet event winners including Jeff Gordon ('05, '99, '97), Dale Earnhardt Jr. ('04), Michael Waltrip ('03, '01), Dale Earnhardt ('98), Sterling Marlin ('95, '94), Dale Jarrett ('93), Ernie Irvan ('91), Derrike Cope ('90), Darrell Waltrip ('89), Geoffry Bodine ('86), Cale Yarborough ('84, '77), Benny Parsons ('75) and Junior Johnson ('60).

In addition to the brand's success at the prestigious season-opening race, Chevrolet is also the most successful nameplate in NASCAR with 596 NASCAR Cup victories, 23 driver titles and 30 manufacturer championships.

Ripken will be the second consecutive celebrity to drive a Chevrolet pace vehicle at the Daytona 500. Last year Tonight Show host and automotive enthusiast, Jay Leno, drove a Corvette Z06 for the 48th running of the Great American Race.

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Derrike Cope , Jeff Gordon , Ernie Irvan , Dale Jarrett , Michael Waltrip , Sterling Marlin , Jimmie Johnson , Junior Johnson , Cale Yarborough , Jay Leno