IRL: Indy 500: Corvette to serve as official pace car

2003 Corvette to pace Indy 500 with Caviezel behind wheel. Co-star of 'High Crimes' to pace field with striking new 50th Anniversary 'Vette INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, April 10, 2002 - A special 50th Anniversary Edition of Chevrolet's upcoming 2003...

2003 Corvette to pace Indy 500 with Caviezel behind wheel.
Co-star of 'High Crimes' to pace field with striking new 50th Anniversary 'Vette

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, April 10, 2002 - A special 50th Anniversary Edition of Chevrolet's upcoming 2003 Corvette was unveiled April 10 as the Official Pace Car of the 86th Indianapolis 500, and motion picture star Jim Caviezel will lead the field to the green flag for the start as the Pace Car driver for "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" on May 26.

The 2002 Indianapolis 500 will bring together three powerful symbols that stir the imaginations of enthusiasts around the world: Chevrolet, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Hollywood.

Corvette will serve as the Indianapolis 500 Pace Car for the fifth time. This also marks the 13th time a Chevrolet vehicle has been the Official Pace Car - the most appearances by any brand.

At the time of the Indianapolis 500, the three 2003 Corvettes provided to the Speedway for Pace Car duties will be the only models in existence.

"This year's Memorial Day classic will showcase America's favorite sports car at 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,'" said Rick Baldick, Corvette brand manager. "It will also be a milestone event for the history books, as it signals the start of a year-long celebration leading up to Corvette's 50th anniversary in 2003."

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the site of many memorable events since the facility opened in 1909. For the fans, this year's Indianapolis 500 is anticipated to be one of the best ever.

"The Indianapolis 500 and Chevrolet have had a longtime relationship," said Tony George, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "It's an honor to have the 2003 Corvette 50th Anniversary Edition make its world debut at the head of the pack and to have Chevrolet return to open-wheel racing with its new Chevy Indy V8 for the Indy Racing League.

"Having an enthusiastic motorsports fan like Jim Caviezel at the wheel of the Pace Car adds to the excitement for our fans."

Caviezel plays the lead role of Tom Chapman in "High Crimes," the hit 20th Century Fox motion picture released April 5 that also stars Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. The film's plot is centered on an alleged military deserter charged with participating in a mass killing in El Salvador.

Caviezel, a native of Mount Vernon, Wash., can be seen in the title role of Edmond Dantes in "The Count of Monte Cristo." He is also the star of the upcoming Premiere Distributors/MGM release "Madison," a true story about the 1971 Gold Cup Power Boat championships at Madison, Ind. The motion picture will hit theatres nationwide Aug. 23.

"Without a doubt about it, pacing the Indy 500 is certainly an opportunity of a lifetime," Caviezel said. "From a Hollywood perspective, winning an Academy Award is the ultimate honor one can receive. For a race fan like me, being in control of the Corvette Pace Car ahead of those 33 race machines will be an adrenaline rush second to none.

"I know I could win a race," quipped Caviezel, "but only if it was written into a movie script. For me, an Oscar(tm) would come easier."

The 86th running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race marks the return of Chevrolet to the most hallowed ground in motorsports. Chevrolet will compete in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time since 1993 with the all-new Chevy Indy V8 racing engine. Chevrolet won 86 Indy-style races, including six Indianapolis 500 victories, and five series championships in 1986-93. Chevy-powered drivers also have swept the first three races of this Indy Racing League season.

The Corvette that will serve as the Indy 500 Pace Car is virtually identical to the 50th Anniversary Edition Coupe available for purchase later this summer through local Chevrolet dealerships. It's equipped with a 5.7-liter LS1 V8 engine that produces 350 horsepower in production trim.

Few modifications were made to the 2003 Corvette 50th Anniversary Edition Pace Car to prepare it for pacing duties. Modifications include application of the special exterior graphics wrapped over the "Anniversary Red" exterior and a lower restriction muffler system.

Inclusion of four-point racing-type safety belts and a safety strobe-light system were made as required by the Indy Racing League. Use of heavy-duty transmission and steering coolers add further assurance of optimum performance in the harsh environment of professional racing.

-irl/ims-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony George