Stock car racing is designed around the idea that the cars you see on the track share a connection to factory stock — in other words, that the very Chevrolet you drive is a close relative of the 200 mph machine circling the track with a celebrity at the wheel.
Modern NASCAR racers are a far cry from factory stock, but they are still built to resemble cars from your favorite marques. For Chevrolet, 2018 will be the first year of a new body style, the Camaro ZL1. While Chevy currently campaigns the Camaro SS car, introduced in 2013, the new ZL1 body will bring revised aerodynamics and years of racing heritage to the NASCAR Monster Energy championship.
The ZL1 Legend
Many Chevy fans will appreciate the ZL1 nameplate as denoting one of the most potent, hardcore Camaros available today. Chevy’s answer to the Shelby GT Mustangs and MOPAR’s SRT Challenger, the production ZL1 features a supercharged small-block V8 capable of 650 horsepower, nearly on par with the output from its competition-spec sister car.
But the ZL1’s legacy started 40 years earlier. The all-aluminum racing engine dubbed ZL1 helped make the Camaro a fierce competitor in road racing competitions against the sports cars of its day. In 1969, a few dealers managed to order factory cars sporting the monster motor, which later became known as the COPO (Central Office Production Order) cars.
Staying Dominant at the Super-Speedway
The ZL1 racecar’s Chevy V8, an engine capable of more than 800 horsepower, is a direct link to the ZL1s you’ll find on dealer lots, and even those of 40 years ago. However, there are some race-specific features you won’t find on the road cars, too. For example, the ultra-light and strong polycarbonate windshield used by racecars isn’t yet available on the street, but maybe someday it will be.
There are also self-sealing fuel cell designed to prevent fires in the event of an accident, advanced pushrod suspension technology, tires you’d never want to pay to replace every 800 miles on the road and the noticeably absent infotainment system, which has been replaced by a tube-frame roll cage.
The new Zl1 racecar brings sweet looks and some serious performance to the track. It’s a nameplate Chevy fans will be happy to get behind, but when it comes to the daily drive, you’re better off sticking with its road-going sister car.