IRL: 1997 Indy 500 pace car driver

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JOHNNY RUTHERFORD TO DRIVE 1997 AURORA INDY 500 PACE CAR Indianapolis, Tuesday, March 11, 1997 -- Three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford will set the pace in a 1997 Oldsmobile Aurora at the 81st running of the ...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JOHNNY RUTHERFORD TO DRIVE 1997 AURORA INDY 500 PACE CAR

Indianapolis, Tuesday, March 11, 1997 -- Three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford will set the pace in a 1997 Oldsmobile Aurora at the 81st running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25. Oldsmobile will make its ninth appearance as the Official Pace Car of the Indianapolis 500, while Rutherford will serve as pace car driver at the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" for the first time in his legendary career.

Aurora Brand Manager John Gatt announced Rutherford's selection as driver of the Official Pace Car at a press conference held today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. Rutherford, known to his fans as "Lone Star JR," won the Indy 500 in 1974, 1976, and 1980. He was the pole sitter in 1973, 1976, and 1980.

"In the 24 times I raced at Indy, I've started from the pole and I've started from the back," said Rutherford, 58, of Fort Worth, Texas. "Now that I'm retired from racing, I'll have the best seat in the house when I lead the field to the start of the greatest race in the world in the Aurora Pace Car.

"This is an honor for me, and a great opportunity for Oldsmobile to show what the Aurora can do," Rutherford added. "The 1997 Indy 500 will mark the beginning of a new era at the Speedway with new engines and new cars. It will be a proud moment when the Aurora V8 paces and races at the Indianapolis 500."

The Memorial Day classic will be an historic event for Oldsmobile, which is celebrating its 100th birthday in 1997 -- the first American automaker to reach that milestone. Oldsmobile will compete for the first time in the Indianapolis 500 with its new 4.0-liter production-based Indy Aurora V8 racing engine.

"We wanted a pace car driver who really knew his way around the Speedway," said John Gatt, brand manager for Oldsmobile's luxury performance sedan. "We couldn't have chosen a more qualified driver than Johnny Rutherford. He has done an outstanding job driving the Aurora pace car at the other Indy Racing League events, and we're pleased to continue that relationship at the biggest race in the series. In addition to his many accomplishments in racing, Johnny has played an important role in the development of the Indy Racing League, and he has earned the respect of veteran and rookie drivers."

The 1997 Aurora Indy 500 Pace Car will be a stock production model except for USAC-required safety equipment. With its standard 250-horsepower Aurora V8 engine, the Aurora Pace Car needs no performance modifications to pace the Indianapolis 500.

"Aurora's sophisticated V8 powertrain gives it a strong competitive advantage on the race track and in the marketplace," Gatt noted. "Through racing, we are communicating to our customers that every Aurora has a world-class V8 engine -- and that the Aurora V8 is available only in Aurora by Oldsmobile."

The pacesetting Aurora features white diamond metallic paint with black and gold highlights and Indy 500 graphics. A power sunroof, 3.71:1 transaxle ratio (included with the Aurora's optional Autobahn package), chrome-plated aluminum alloy wheels and Goodyear Eagle LS P235/60R16 tires complete the Pace Car equipment package.

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JOHNNY RUTHERFORD FAST FACTS

Birthdate: March 12, 1938 Residence: Fort Worth, Texas Indianapolis 500 Wins: 3 (1974, 1976, 1980) Indianapolis 500 Poles: 3 (1973, 1976, 1980) Indianapolis 500 Starts: 24 (first in 1963, last in 1988) Career Indy car Starts: 315 Career Indy car Wins: 27 Career Indy car Poles: 23 Career Highlights: Started Indy car driving career in 1962 at Hoosier Hundred ... fastest qualifier for Daytona 500 in 1963 ... won first Indy car race in 1965 (Atlanta) ... won PPG Indy Car World Series championship and named "Driver of the Year" in 1980 ... retired from racing in 1994 ... named IRL Special Projects Coordinator in 1995.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Johnny Rutherford