7-time Daytona 500 winner Richard Petty to lead field in 2011 Mustang

Courtesy photo. Richard Petty will drive the pace car for the Daytona 500.

DAYTONA BEACH -- Seven-time Daytona 500 winner Richard Petty is scheduled to lead the 43-car field to the green flag on Sunday as pace car driver for "The Great American Race."

Petty, who holds the NASCAR record with seven Daytona 500 victories, has accepted the role as "Pace Car Driver" for the 52nd running of "The Great American Race," and will pace all 43 cars to the green flag behind the wheel of a special edition 2011 Mustang GT, powered by Ford's all-new 5.0-liter V-8 engine.

"There's nothing like the Daytona 500. It's one of the biggest races in the world and to be a part of it in this way is the next-best thing to actually being able to race," Petty said. "Who knows, maybe I'll just stay out there for a few laps and see what those guys have got because I'll definitely be in a hot-rod driving the new 5.0-liter Mustang GT."

Petty is back as a member of the Ford Racing family after Richard Petty Motorsports merged with Yates Racing during the recently concluded off-season.

"The King" previously drove for the blue oval in 1969 and won nine races that season in a Ford Torino.

Ironically, the last and only other time Ford served as pace car for the Daytona 500 was one year later when a Ford Torino GT convertible started the 1970 event.

In addition to the special paint, this year's Mustang pace car features a Brembo brake package, Ford Racing suspension, strut tower brace and mufflers, unique 19-inch painted wheels, and summer-only tires.

The actual car that Petty will drive recently was sold for $300,000 at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., with all proceeds above the MSRP being donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com for a decade now. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards in print anddigital platforms. Frederick is enrolled at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's three-fourths through the online Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation is in August.