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NASCAR WCUP: Pontiac Aztek to pace Daytona 500

18 January 2001

Posted By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
DETROIT - When the 43rd annual Daytona 500 kicks off the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season on Feb. 18, there may be just as much buzz about the vehicle pacing the field, as there will be about the field it paces.

Leading America's top racing series into its 53rd season of competition will be the world's first Sport Recreation Vehicle (SRV) -- Pontiac's new Aztek. In putting it together, Pontiac pushed the edge on style and technology, producing a vehicle with unprecedented versatility that still performs like a Pontiac!

"Today's NASCAR fans are active and versatile people, and they need a vehicle that can keep up with them. That's what the Pontiac Aztek is all about," said Don Butler, Aztek Brand Manager. "And what better place to showcase the Aztek than the biggest stock car race in the world? We're going to turn more than a few heads in Daytona when the Aztek brings them to the green, and that's what we had in mind."

The version of the Aztek that will appear on America's biggest motorsports stage for "The Great American Race" has been enhanced in a number of areas to better its performance as a pace vehicle. It features a Magnuson supercharged powertrain by Vrbancic Brothers with headers done by Doug Thorley and Mike Cook. The supercharged engine, which has enlarged exhaust valves and Manley rods and pistons, will turn out 330 horsepower - an increase of 145 horsepower over its 3.4-liter V6 showroom counterpart. Additional ride & handling enhancements include stiffer bushings, springs and shocks, and the vehicle has also been lowered. Brakes are from Baer Racing.

Like the Grand Prix GTP, which served as last year's pace car, the Aztek comes at the consumer with the signature twin-port grille topped by ram-air style hood slots and cat's eye headlamps. It has modified front and rear fascias, side cladding, 18" Speedline wheels and Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. The entire package will be wrapped up in a special deep red paint from PPG.

The Aztek's involvement with the Daytona 500 will give Pontiac its 34th race at the head of the field. Since 1959, when the Bonneville Convertible led the starting field to the green flag, Pontiac has provided the pace car for the Winston Cup season's kickoff event 33 times, including 11 events with the Pontiac Grand Prix.

Text Provided By Al Larsen

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot racing photos and art, visit The Racing Photo Museum and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.