Celebration of the 100th Indy 500 begins with Andretti Autosport-Honda ace in the 127th annual Rose Parade on New Year’s Day
Ryan Hunter-Reay will drive the new Acura NSX at the head of America’s legendary Rose Parade on January 1.
The 127th Rose Parade, which is this year being sponsored by Honda, is the traditional event marking the start of the new year, held in Pasadena, California, and broadcast across the USA.
As 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner, Hunter-Reay will drive the official “Pace Car” NSX at 2.5mph at the head of a line of 44 floats. The first of these is Honda’s own “Nature’s Hope” float, which is a celebration of American and Japanese national parks, with the front inspired by the Sanriku Fukko National Park that was established in 2013 following the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
Hunter-Reay told Motorsport.com: “It’s a great privilege, and it’s definitely a way to get IndyCar’s message to a wider audience.
“I always said that winning the 2014 Indy 500 was a gift that kept on giving, but in this case, it’s giving not just to me and the team, but also the Verizon IndyCar Series as a whole. It gets new eyeballs on IndyCar, it gets people talking about the series – a great opportunity in front of people who maybe don’t follow racing.
“Ahead of the 100th running of the Indy 500, this is important. Yes, it’s a huge honor for me to represent Honda, but also the world’s biggest race and IndyCar racing as a whole.”
The presence of Indy car drivers in the Rose Parade is rare. Two-time Indy 500 winner Rodger Ward was in the 1963 Rose Parade on the state of Indiana's "Memorable Moments in Indiana" float. Jimmy Vasser also took part on his sponsor Target’s float, back when he raced for Chip Ganassi Racing.
The Acura NSX, set to go on sale in late February, is a 573hp supercar, powered by a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 along with front-mounted and mid-mounted electric motors. It utilizes a nine-speed gearbox and MSRP starts at $156,000.
“I haven’t actually had a chance to even see the new NSX in person yet,” admitted Hunter-Reay, “so I can’t wait to drive it a bit… though obviously very slowly. I understand it’s come a long way since the one we saw doing demonstration laps at Mid-Ohio a few years back.
“If it’s as good as I’ve heard, and if I behave myself in the parade, maybe Honda will surprise me by letting me keep the keys and the car.”
Texas-born, Florida-domiciled Hunter-Reay also said he saw this as a chance to pay tribute to a state he and his wife once called home.
“Beccy and I lived in Dana Point for six years,” said Hunter-Reay, “and that’s only about 90 minutes away from the parade. I have a lot of happy memories from our time here.
“So this is going to be a great opportunity for us to represent one great American tradition, the Indy 500, in another great American traditional celebration, the Rose Parade.
“And maybe we can do it again next year when I win the 100th running, right?”
Rose Parade TV coverage starts at 11am ET/8am PT on ABC, NBC, HGTV, Univision, RDFTV