Via online streaming live video on Wednesday, April 29, representatives from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Chevrolet announced that NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jeff Gordon will drive the pace car at this year’s Indianapolis 500 IndyCar race in May. The race will be the 99th running of the historic event. Gordon, who drives a Chevy for the Hendricks NASCAR team, will drive a Corvette Z06 to pace the IndyCar field on May 24.
Gordon was on hand for the announcement at IMS. He took the Corvette Z06 out for a “shakedown” of a couple of laps (one longer than originally planned) and drove into the pits to speak with reporters.
The honor of driving the pace car comes in celebration of Gordon’s final year driving fulltime in NASCAR as well as in honor of his 2014 win of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Brickyard 400 at IMS last July. According to IMS, California native, Gordon once lived in neaby Pittsboro, Indiana and both watched on television and attended in person the Indy 500 as one of the first professional races he remembers growing up.
About the distinction of driving this year’s pace car, Gordon commented, “Indy is hallowed ground for racers like me and I couldn’t be more thrilled to drive the Corvette Z06 pace car around the track that helped drive my success over the years.” He added, “The Indianapolis 500 is one of the most celebrated races of the year and an event I always dreamed of racing while growing up in California and in nearby Pittsboro.”
In a year where there are a lot of “lasts” happening at each racetrack as he drives in his final season in NASCAR, Gordon is naturally reflective. He said about this opportunity, which is actually a “first” rather than a last, “I’ve won five NASCAR races at IMS and the track will always be a special place for me, so to be able to participate in such a historic day will be something I remember for the rest of my life.”
During the online announcement, Gordon shared that he is trying to get team owner Rick Hendrick to join him at IMS on race day morning when he hopes to be able to watch a few laps of the race with his family before he has to leave Indiana for Charlotte, N.C.. The Coca-Cola 600 is a major race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup calendar and happens later in the same day.
May 24, this year the Sunday of the U.S. Memorial Day weekend, is often called the “Greatest Day in Racing.” The day starts off in the early hours for American viewers with the Monaco Grand Prix Formula 1 race run in Europe, followed by Indiana’s great race the Indy 500, and ends up in Charlotte with the longest race on the NASCAR calendar.
Gordon said driving the pace car, then heading down to compete in the 600 will be “my version of doing the double.” He said that while he was never able to race in the Indy 500 as he’d always dreamed of as a boy, the honor of participating this way would be something special.