Five-time Brickyard 400 winner and former Pittsboro resident Jeff Gordon will drive the pace car for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 next month. In an announcement at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today, Gordon was all smiles as he drove around this year’s pace car. The Corvette Z06 made several laps around the speedway today, with Gordon behind the wheel. The announcement came at the request of Chevrolet and IMS officials.
Gordon himself, thought it was too good to be true. “When I heard about this, I was blown away, thinking this can’t be real, they must be joking.” This will be the 13th time a Corvette has paced the field, and the 26th time a Chevrolet has led the cars to the green flag for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
“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,” Gordon said. “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. 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.”
He was quick to answer questions about him actually participating in the event. “To me, doing the double has never really been anything that I ever took serious. Do I wish that I had the opportunity to race in the Indy 500? Absolutely. I think it’s any race car driver’s dream to race in this race. But it just wasn’t meant to be for me, but the Brickyard 400 was.”
The four-time Cup champion continued. “I’m the type of person where if I’m going to do it, I want to do it in the way where I feel I can spend the proper amount of time behind the wheel and really get used to the car, appreciate and respect the competitors that race these cars … throughout the whole season,”
The Corvette comes with 650 supercharged horsepower, a seven-speed manual transmission, and a track-capable chassis system. Chevrolet US Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports Jim Campbell, was thrilled to have Gordon in the driver’s seat. “It’s great to have Jeff Gordon serve as this year’s pace car driver. He is a true champion who has earned the respect and admiration of competitors and race fans alike. It will be very special to have Jeff lead the Indy 500 field to the green flag, behind the wheel of the most powerful and capable production car ever from Chevrolet – on a day he’ll also be competing in the Coca Cola 600 NASCAR race at Charlotte.”
Gordon will likely stay and watch the race for a few laps before he flies back to Charlotte. He will need to arrive before the driver’s meeting to avoid having to start in the back of the field for that race. The last time Gordon attended the Indianapolis 500 was in 1983, before he began his legendary career in NASCAR.