The Daytona 500 is often called "The Great American Race." And the 2012 Toyota Camry SE will be leading the 54th running next February, at least for one lap. Because a special version of this ever-popular mid-size sedan has been created to act as pace car.
It doesn't need any more power than the 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque its standard-issue 3.5-liter V6 can provide. And 90 percent of the road car's components have been re-engineered. But this version does get a roll cage, racing harnesses, fire extinguisher, upgraded brakes, adjustable sports suspension and high-performance tires.
The 2012 model represents Generation Nine of the Camry, made in Kentucky. Toyota claims the Camry has the most North American content of any vehicle competing in NASCAR. Although the Camry has scored many wins in NASCAR races, including some at the Daytona International Speedway, this particular machine will be the first Daytona 500 pace car not to have come from the Big Three domestic automakers.
Racing driver Denny Hamlin said, "NASCAR has never seen a pace car with this combination of performance and fuel efficiency." Hamlin drives the number 11 Fed-Ex Camry for the Joe Gibbs Racing Team.
See more coverage of the 2011 SEMA Auto Show.
|COLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.|