It takes an incredible amount of work behind the scenes to get a race car ready to hit the track. Looking at the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that makes its racing debut at this year’s Daytona 500, you might just see a race car that looks somewhat like the street version. However, that’s where the similarities end. This car is a technological wonder that goes way beyond what you see on the surface. Before the race, Autotrader got a chance to see the car up close and personal and experience first-hand what makes the Camaro ZL1 a driving force on the track.
To design a car that can cheat the wind and be aerodynamically sleek takes a lot of ingenuity. Engineers created hundreds of digital models of the Camaro ZL1. Then, using a combination of Computational Fluid Dynamics, reduced scale and full-scale wind tunnel testing, they created a design that met stringent aerodynamic benchmarks. Surprisingly, the race car retains much of the street car’s aggressive looks and features.
So how did the Camaro ZL1 perform during its inaugural race? From the get go, Ford was a dominating force during this year’s race. Ryan Blaney’s Ford Fusion led the race for an amazing 189 laps. However, toward the end of the race, things started to heat up (as they normally do) at the Daytona 500. In the last lap, race leader Aric Almirola’s Fusion suffered a wreck that allowed Austin Dillon’s #3 Camaro ZL1 to take the lead and win the race.
Other Camaro ZL1 drivers also ranked high at the end of the race. Darrell Wallace Jr. garnered a second-place finish, while three other Camaro ZL1s finished in the top 10. And even before the race started, the #88 Camaro ZL1 of Alex Bowman captured the quickest qualifying time, giving him the coveted pole position.
Many who watched the race must have experienced a feeling of deja vu. Twenty years prior to this year’s race, Dale Earnhardt won his first Daytona 500 in his signature black #3 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Austin Dillon was there in the victory lane to help Earnhardt celebrate his win, and even had his picture taken with Earnhardt. Two decades later, Austin’s the one celebrating his first Daytona 500 victory.
All things considered, it was a great day for the Camaro ZL1. Scoring a win during its inaugural race, the coming season looks promising for the legendary marque. With 39 NASCAR manufacturer championships under its belt, Chevrolet looks poised to make this racing season an exciting one.