A Torch Red 2020 Corvette Stingray coupe has been selected as the pace car for the 104th Indianapolis 500. This marks the 17th time the Chevy Corvette has served as the Indy 500 pace car since its first appearance in 1978. This makes it the most popular car brand or model to be chosen for this honor.
This year’s pace car’s torch red color and all-new mid-engine LT2 6.2L V8 engine; 8-speed dual clutch transmission; and Z51 performance package make it one of the highest performance pace cars to take the track.
A Little History on the Role of the Pace Car
For the first time in the race’s 109-year history this year’s Indy 500 will be held outside the month of May and without fans present, but the role of the pace car will not change. Since the first pace car was used in the 1911 race, its role has evolved from purely ceremonial to also being used during periods when the race runs under the yellow caution flag.
At the start of the race, the pace car leads the assembled starting grid of 33 cars around the track for a predetermined number of unscored warm-up laps. At the appropriate time the pace car will release the field to start the race. In addition, during yellow flag caution periods, the pace car enters the track and picks up the leader while slowing the pace of the race. This bunches the field at a reduced speed until the caution flag is withdrawn.
In today’s race the pace car’s role involves leading the field through four warm up laps consisting of three “parade” laps and one “pace” lap. During the parade laps, often several replica festival pace cars join the field, usually carrying celebrities or special guest drivers. Since 2010, the IndyCar “two-seater” (a retired Indy race car modified with a special passenger seat) has also been at the front of the field, carrying a celebrity or special guest. The non-participating vehicles pull off the track after one or two circuits, and the lone official pace car leads the field on the pace lap.
Indy 500 Winner Gets Sweet Ride
In almost every year since 1936, it has been a tradition that the winner of the Indianapolis 500 is presented with one of that year’s pace cars or a replica. The honor of supplying the pace car is coveted by the respective automobile manufacturers and a huge marketing opportunity for the particular make/model.
Who gets to Drive the Pace Car?
In most years since 1911, the driver of the pace car at the start of the race has been an invited celebrity, a former racing driver, or notable figure in the automotive industry. During his tenure as Speedway president, Tony Hulman rode in the pace car nearly every year, immediately after giving the command to start engines.
By the late 1960s, not only would a special driver be behind the wheel of the pace car, but numerous celebrities would be invited to ride along as passengers. Automotive executives, NASA astronauts, reporters, and other celebrities were among those invited to ride in the pace car. More recently former racers have been chosen to drive the pace car. This includes A. J. Foyt in 2011, Dario Franchitti in 2014, Jeff Gordon in 2015, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. drove in 2019. This year’s driver is General Motors president Mark Reuss.
Race Date and Times
The Indianapolis 500 has been rescheduled for Sunday, August 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The race will be held without fans. Pre-race television coverage by NBC begins at 1 pm ET with the start of the race scheduled for 2:30 pm ET.
Car and Driver All Time Favorite Indy 500 Pace Cars
The photos in this article are a few of Car & Driver’s all-time favorite pace cars. To see their complete list go to Leaders of the Pack.