“Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” – probably the oldest marketing adage in motorsports – might not work like it once did. If it did, teams in NASCAR’s top series likely would be running SUVs and crossovers – in high demand these days – instead of Toyota Camrys and Ford Fusions.
But Chevrolet is clearly hoping its new Cup Series race car – a Camaro ZL1 it unveiled Thursday for next season’s Cup campaign – can carry more customers to Chevy showrooms. One way the GM division plans to do that: Its 2018 race car and the Camaro ZL1s that will be available in showrooms bear a stronger resemblance to one another in looks and purpose – driving fast – than NASCAR cars have of late.
Chevy’s unveiling included several photos of the race cars and street cars side by side. The resemblance is carried by much more than the paint on the nose and the name plate. Even the dimensions of the two cars are similar.
The street version of the 2018 Camaro ZL1 draws its power from a 650-horsepower supercharged engine featuring “a similar 90-degree V-8 configuration as the Cup racing engines,” according to Chevy.
The ties between the street and race car certainly please Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, who is counting on the Camaros to boost traffic at his dealership network in addition to winning races.
“Selfishly, it’s going to be a great race car, but it’s also going to be really good for the dealer business,” said Hendrick, who took delivery earlier Thursday of the first production Camaro ZL1 1LE at Chevrolet’s Lansing, Michigan, plant. “When you’ve got 50 years of heritage and being a performance car ... the reviews on this car have been off the chart.”
One such review for the street version of the Camaro ZL1 1LE from Car and Driver’s K.C. Colwell noted its “shocking performance, shocking price.” The “shocking” here is meant in a good way.
The Camaro “stretches the performance envelope like a cruise missile wearing a forty-nine-cent stamp,” according to Colwell, while carrying a base price of $71,295. That starts with a Corvette Z06-derived LT4 supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine with 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque.
“Very nearly anything else operating in this performance stratum is easily two or three times costlier,” Colwell writes.
NASCAR’s Camaro ZL1 will make its competition debut next February during Daytona Speedweeks, which kicks off the 2018 season.
The 2018 Camaro ZL1 replaces the Chevrolet SS, with a U.S. showroom counterpart that is based on an Australian four-door sedan called the Holden Commodore (VF). NASCAR Chevy teams have won 70 Cup Series races and three championship titles in the SS since its introduction in 2013.
Chevys’ Cup Series drivers seem pleased with its replacement.
“The new Camaro ZL1 is a great-looking race car with a lot of heritage behind it, which will make it a big hit with fans,” Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR’s current champ, said Thursday. “And as someone who’s enjoyed the ZL1 on the street, I’m really looking forward to getting this new race car on the track.”
Cup drivers, present and future, such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott, William Byron, Kyle Larson and also weighed in with positive reaction on social media.
The Camaro ZL1 name originally was used for an all-aluminum engine from the ’60s. According to Chevrolet, a few dealers in 1969 used its special-order system to get the ZL1 engine installed in 69 regular-production Camaros, which became “instant legends on the street and dragstrip.”
Chevy has been running another car bearing the Camaro name – a Camaro SS – in the NASCAR XFINITY Series since 2013.
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