January 17, 2002
Jay Leno to pace Daytona 500 in Trans Am “Collector Edition”
Comedian Jay Leno and Pontiac NASCAR Winston Cup driver Tony Stewart at Daytona International Speedway recently tested the official 2002 Daytona 500 pace car in preparation for the race. Click image to enlarge.
Daytona Beach, Florida – “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno will serve as the official pace car driver for the 2002 Daytona 500 on February 17th. Leno will drive the pace car version of the new 2002 Collector Edition Firebird Trans Am.
This year’s Daytona 500 will be the 15th where a Trans Am has been as a pace car and the 30th race in a row paced by a Pontiac.
A racing and automotive enthusiast and avid car collector, Leno has participated as a pace driver or guest in many NASCAR events but has never driven at Daytona International Speedway. To help him prepare, Pontiac asked its own NASCAR Winston Cup Grand Prix driver Tony Stewart to take Leno through the curves.
“There’s definitely a unique thrill that only American muscle cars can deliver and Firebird is one of those classic cars that’s forever etched into American culture,” said Leno. “Driving in this car at a track as legendary as Daytona with Tony Stewart is an experience that I’m very much looking forward to.”
“It’s really nice to see a Trans Am pace this race. I’ve raced Trans Am bodies in the IROC series for a long time and I really appreciate the significance it has as a great American muscle car,” said Stewart. “And while it’s sad to see them go after 2002, it’s great to see Pontiac celebrate Firebird history.”
According to Firebird Brand Manager Bob Kraut, the 2002 Trans Am Collector Edition’s Ram Air WS6 performance and handling package is so good that the pace car needed only two changes to make it race ready: special Daytona 500 decals and a light bar.
“When race fans see this car on the track at the Daytona 500 it will be one of the few times they can actually go to their dealership and get the same car that paced the race -the car is just that good,” said Kraut. “And with the Collector Edition’s LS1 V8 churning out 325 horsepower at 350 lb-ft. of torque, it’s bound to be just as much fun on the street as it is leading the pack at Daytona International Speedway.”
The Ram Air WS6 performance and handling package is standard on the Collector Edition. Highlighting the features is the LS1 5.7L V8, which produces 325 horsepower at 350 lb-ft. of torque. The WS6 Ram Air package includes functional air scoops, ram-air induction, low restriction dual outlet exhaust, and a suspension specifically tuned for maximum handling performance.
Available transmissions for the LS1 include a Hurst “Short-Throw” six-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
Outfitted in its exclusive Pontiac “Collector Yellow” paint scheme, the Collector Edition features a special “screaming chicken” graphic package that puts a contemporary spin on the eye-catching hood designs of the ’70s and ’80s Firebird and Trans Am models. Two gold-tone designs adorn the hood of the vehicle and continue on to wrap themselves around the car’s doors and rear quarter panels. The rear fascia also gets special attention with a two-tone Collector Yellow and black treatment while both Collector Edition and Trans Am nameplates accent the lower doors.
The Collector Edition will be offered in Trans Am Coupe with hatch tops and a black roof halo or Convertible with a black top.