Camaro ZL1: Jimmie's Next Chevy
Heading into Sunday's race near the 'Motor City' in Michigan, seven-time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson wheeled the brand new 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Cup car out for the world to see for the first time in front of the General Motors Renaissance Center world headquarters in Detroit. It was only fitting the winningest Bowtie driver currently on the track pilot the No. 8 ZL1 – the number raced over a century ago by Chevrolet’s namesake, Louis Chevrolet.
“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,” said Johnson. “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.”
The heritage Johnson spoke of began way back in the golden age of auto racing and smack in the middle of the sixties muscle car craze. The world-beater aluminum V8 racing engine known as the ZL1 was tucked under the hood of 69 special order Camaros in 1969, and a legend was born.
Four decades later, Chevrolet revived the ZL1 Camaro lineage with 650 HP race-ready showroom show stoppers.
2018’s introduction of the Camaro ZL1 into the Cup Series is the next in a long line of competition Chevy’s for Johnson – after all, he hasn’t raced anything but a Bowtie since 1994. Check out the original press release from 1993 that marked the dawn of this legendary partnership here!
Johnson’s tenure with Chevy began in the wildly popular Mickey Thompson Stadium Off-Road Series. He made quite a name for himself wheeling his Nelson & Nelson Racing Chevrolet S-Series pickup across the southwest.
Johnson then stepped up into a full-sized Silverado in the high-flying SCORE and SODA Off-Road Series with Herzog Motorsports, and competed in races the likes of the infamous Baja 1000.
In 1997, Jimmie and Herzog traded the dirt and trucks for pavement Chevrolet Monte Carlo stock cars in the American Speed Association.
While still piloting Monte Carlo’s in his move up to the NASCAR Busch Series in 2000, Johnson found himself more horsepower under his right foot and stiffer competition through his windshield.
Johnson’s debut at the pinnacle of American motorsports came in October of 2001 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway behind the wheel of the now legendary No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo – which also happened to be the most powerful racecar he’d ever piloted.
In 2003, the Monte Carlo got a little refresh in the showroom, as did Johnson’s hot rod No. 48.
From 2004 through 2011, Jimmie competed in seven Rolex 24’s at Daytona, where he piloted Chevrolet (and sister brand Pontiac) Daytona Prototypes.
Jimmie’s first Cup title came in 2006 behind the wheel of the brand new Monte Carlo SS.
The 2007 season was split between the Monte Carlo SS and the new ‘car of tomorrow’ Impala SS.
Before the start of what would turn out to be Jimmie’s fifth straight championship in 2010, the ‘SS’ was dropped from the Impala.
Yet another major change came in 2013 when the Chevrolet SS was introduced. Just as he did with 2007’s major car overhaul, Johnson captured the series title that year.
The 2018 Camaro ZL1 will mark another milestone change in Chevrolet’s storied NASCAR history. Can Johnson do it again and win the title the first year out?