2002 Pontiac Firebird - Found on AutoTrader.com

There's nothing funny about what almost happened to ''Tonight Show" host Jay Leno when he was driving this Firebird pace car during the 2002 Daytona 500.

With only five laps to go, the race had to be restarted due to an accident. Just after the green flag dropped, Leno drove into the pits. A few seconds later out on the track another accident occurred. This "chain reaction" sent Michael Waltrip's car spinning into the pit area where it narrowly missed the Leno piloted pace car. But luckily for Jay, and potential buyers of this unique 2002 Pontiac, neither sustained a scratch.

Even without its Daytona 500 appearance, this Firebird is special. For example, none of the other 250 or so 2002 Firebirds on AutoTrader.com are autographed by Leno and NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart. Stewart, who was forced to drop out of that year's race with an engine failure, was Leno's "driving coach" prior to the event.

Collectors might have already been somewhat interested in the vehicle since 2002 was the last year the legendary muscle car was produced. But the car can be considered even more desirable because of its exhaustive list of factory options, including a high-performance engine.

"Lot of horsepower, lot of torque, it's very fast," Leno said.

The car is offered for sale by Bonham Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Bonham, Texas. Bonham Salesperson Austin Dreyer says the Firebird was modified by the factory in order to prepare it for its role as the actual on-track Daytona pace car.

"GM built the car and customized it especially for the race," said Dreyer.

The Firebird was originally sold in 2009 by noted auction house Barrett Jackson at a one-time General Motors Heritage event where GM sold off dozens of cars from the manufacturer's own collection.

But it's really the authentic race history and Hollywood connection that set this Firebird apart from the similar pace car replicas that Pontiac offered for sale that year.

"It's certainly a collector's piece," Dreyer says, "a neat car that's one of a kind.

Watch a YouTube video of Jay Leno and Tony Stewart driving the car.


See this car. View the archived copy after it sells.


Have you seen a unique car on AutoTrader.com that we should feature? Send a link to found@autotrader.com.

author photo

John Seals has been writing about the auto industry since 1979 when he convinced the editor of his high school newspaper to let him write a road test of the new Ford Mustang. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and online.


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