Apart from that one exception, it's been all Detroit – Pontiacs mostly, but also Buicks, Chevrolets, Dodges, Plymouths and Fords. But just as Toyota has rubbed and bumped its way up the field over the past decade plus of competition, it's now got one of its own up at the front as the official pace car for next year's race.
That's right. When the 2012 Daytona 500 kicks off the Sprint Cup season come February, it'll be the new 2012 Toyota Camry setting the pace. And while some may bemoan the use of an "import" for the task, Toyota would argue that nothing could be more American. After all, the Camry has been built in America (first in Georgetown, Kentucky, and now in Lafayette, Indiana) for 25 years now. And for 13 of the past 14 years, it's been the top selling car in America. So maybe, just maybe, the Toyota Camry has earned the honor.
America's Best-Selling Car Will Lead Field in 'The Great American Race®'
TORRANCE, Calif. (August 23, 2011) – Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (TMS) and Daytona International Speedway (DIS) announced today the all-new 2012 Toyota Camry will serve as the official pace car for next year's DAYTONA 500®.
Toyota will showcase the new Camry -- the best-selling car in America for nine years running -- at Daytona in 'The Great American Race,' Feb. 26, 2012. The race annually kicks-off the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
"We're thrilled to be able to feature the new Camry in Daytona at the season's biggest race," said Ed Laukes, TMS corporate manager of motorsports marketing. "We think the DAYTONA 500 is the perfect place to showcase the all-new Camry -- which will go on sale this fall. We knew when the opportunity arose to partner together with Daytona that it would be an extraordinary way to highlight our new Camry, as well as reinforce Toyota's commitment to NASCAR and its fans."
Camry went on sale in 1983 and since then more than nine million have been sold in the U.S. Camry has been the best selling car in America for 13 of the past 14 years.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Camry production in Georgetown, Ky. Toyota began manufacturing the Camry in Georgetown in 1986 and the vehicle is now also built in Lafayette, Ind.
The 2012 Camry debuts a bold, sophisticated new design with a more spacious interior, improved driving dynamics and an even quieter ride than before. The new model features class leading safety, fuel economy and multi-media technology.
"NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway provide a uniquely American platform for manufacturers to display their technology, innovation and overall automotive excellence," said Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III. "After nearly eight years of competing at NASCAR's highest level, I'm pleased to have the 2012 Toyota Camry pace the DAYTONA 500."
Toyota has previously provided pace vehicles at several NASCAR tracks, including Auto Club Speedway of Southern CaliforniaSM, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway®, Dover (Del.) International Speedway, California's Infineon Raceway, Kansas Speedway®, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway®, Nashville Superspeedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway®, Richmond (Va.) International Raceway®, Wisconsin's Road America and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International®.
In 2004, Toyota began participating in NASCAR competition by fielding Tundras in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS). Three years later in 2007, Toyota began competing in the NSCS and the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) with the Camry.
Toyota has won three consecutive manufacturer's titles in the NNS (2008-2010) with the Camry, and Toyota racers have earned one driver's title (Kyle Busch in 2009) and registered 60 race victories in the NNS. In NSCS competition, Camry drivers have earned 36 first-place trophies.
In seven seasons participating in the NCWTS, Toyota has captured five consecutive manufacturer's championships (2006-2010), and Tundra drivers have won driver's titles with Todd Bodine (2006 and 2010) and Johnny Benson (2008), and have earned 88 race wins.
At Daytona International Speedway, Toyota drivers have recorded eight NASCAR wins across NASCAR's three national touring series, including one NSCS win (Kyle Busch in 2008), two NNS wins (Denny Hamlin in 2008 and Tony Stewart in 2008) and five NCWTS wins. In 2008, Hamlin claimed Toyota's first-ever NSCS victory in a non-points qualifying event to determine the Daytona 500 starting lineup.