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Chevrolet assessing pace car fire at Daytona race, looking for possible causes, fix

Track workers extinguish a fire that started in the pace car during the NASCAR Sprint Unlimited auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Jim Topper)

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Track workers extinguish a fire that started in the pace car during the NASCAR Sprint Unlimited auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Jim Topper)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The hot lap at Daytona was set by the pace car.

The latest quirky occurrence at the home of the Daytona 500 came Saturday night when there was a fire inside the pace car for the exhibition Sprint Unlimited.

The smoke billowing from the car might have seemed out of place at any other track.

At Daytona?

It seemed more a matter of when the latest track mishap would happen, not if.

After all, the 2010 Daytona 500 was interrupted for more than two hours because of a pothole in the track. Juan Pablo Montoya slammed into a jet dryer in the 2012 race, igniting a raging inferno that caused another two-hour delay.

And last year, a last-lap crash in the Nationwide Series injured at least 30 spectators and ripped apart a chunk of fencing that protects the mammoth seating areas at stock car racing's most famous track.

The fire in the pace car started right before the third segment of the Sprint Unlimited race. Flames could be seen shooting from the rear of the car as it sat on the apron. A replacement pace car was brought out to finish the race.

"I just saw the whole back of the car was on fire. I thought it was a race car," 2012 Cup champion Brad Keselowski said. "Someone said it was the pace car. I just couldn't help but start laughing."

Pace car driver Brett Bodine, a former NASCAR driver, and a passenger safely exited the vehicle.

"I saw the aftermath where two guys were getting out of it. Seemed like they were running for their life, scared of a little fire," Kyle Busch said, smiling. "Maybe they need firesuits now."

Cup driver Clint Bowyer had some fun with the scene working in the broadcast booth.

"We have a caution for the caution car!" Bowyer said. "Burn the pace car up! I have never seen anything (like this). It's a full moon night."

Chevrolet said Sunday it was assessing the fire in the trunk. The car manufacturer said the Chevrolet SS pace car has an auxiliary electrical kit in the trunk. The kit operates the car's numerous caution lights.

Chevy has not linked the electrical kit to the fire.

Race winner and Toyota driver Denny Hamlin said, "Should have been driving a Camry."

It had been a tough week for the manufacturer.

General Motors earlier this week recalled almost 800,000 of its 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and 2007 Pontiac G5 compacts in North America because of faulty ignition switches.

And, a sinkhole at the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky swallowed eight rare cars.

Chevy pushed all that aside Sunday when Austin Dillon drove the No. 3 to the top spot at the Daytona 500.

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