NASCAR & Auto Racing

Junior Johnson to pace Daytona 500 field

Junior Johnson, who won 50 NASCAR races including the 1960 Daytona 500, will drive the pace car for the start of the 50th edition of “The Great American Race” on Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway.

In addition, seven-time 500 winner Richard Petty, the winningest driver in NASCAR history with 200 career victories, will be the honorary starter.

The 76-year-old Johnson will drive a 2008 Corvette Z06 to get the season-opening event under way.

Inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990 and named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers in 1998, Johnson claimed his Daytona 500 win in only his second season in NASCAR competition.

As an owner, Johnson’s cars earned 139 victories and six championships in NASCAR’s top division.

Daytona also announced that all of its 168,000 grandstand seats have been sold for the historic race, leaving only infield tickets on sale. The crowd is expected to top 180,000.

It’s the earliest sellout of the grandstand in modern history, according to speedway president Robin Braig.