Seven time NASCAR Cup champion Richard Petty will once more lead the Daytona 500 because the man known as 'The King' will be at the wheel of the official pace car.

Petty, whose Cup Series career spans over a 30 years and includes 200 wins, will lead the 43 car field to the green flag in a 2011 Ford Mustang GT, only the second time ever a Ford has served as pace car for the race.

“There's nothing like the Daytona 500,” he said. “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. Who knows, maybe I'll just stay out there for a few laps and see what those guys have got.”

The car itself, a limited edition model powered by a five litre V8 engine and fitted out with uprated Brembo brakes and racing suspension is capable of producing 412hp, has already been sold at auction for $300,000, the proceeds going to The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The race also marks the first points race for the newly combined Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing, which sees the 'The King' return to the Ford Racing family for the first time since 1969.

“We're so thrilled to have Richard Petty returning to Ford,” said Jamie Allison, director of Ford North America Motorsports. “We wanted to do something that would make him feel like an integral part of our program right away, and having him behind the wheel of a 2011 Mustang GT to start the Daytona 500 is a perfect way to renew this relationship.”