IRL: General Colin Powell - IMS interview

AN INTERVIEW WITH -- GEN. COLIN POWELL Pace Car driver, 89th Indianapolis 500 INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 18, 2005 -- An interview with Gen. Colin Powell, former United States secretary of state, who will drive the Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car at...

Pace Car driver, 89th Indianapolis 500

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 18, 2005 -- An interview with Gen. Colin Powell, former United States secretary of state, who will drive the Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car at the 89th Indianapolis 500 on May 29.

Powell, former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 16 to put in practice laps in the Corvette on the historic 2.5-mile oval with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford.

After his initial laps, Powell said: "This is great. I want to stay with him (Rutherford) the whole race."

Q: Well, tell me, how was it?

COLIN POWELL: It was great. I didn't want to get off the track. I'm really, really looking forward to practicing some more and then looking forward to a great day. It's a wonderful car, and it's a wonderful track. I've got to learn a little about the track and figure out how it runs and what lines to take, but it's coming.

Q: As you come through Turn 1, can you imagine it filled up with people?

CP: I have this temptation to start waving at them, but I know that is not what I'm going to do that day. I'll need to keep my eyes on the road and on the task in front of me. But I can just sense what it's going to be like with hundreds of thousands of people here watching this race. I'm looking forward to it.

Q: Talk about this race briefly, the history of this race, the tradition of this race, the Indianapolis 500?

CP: Well, it's a great tradition. It's one of those things that is just as American as apple pie. The Indy 500, you say it anywhere in the world, and people know what you're talking about. It's put this city on the map, certainly, but it's also put this kind of racing on the map. There are some people in America who don't understand how important this event is, and so I'm glad I can bring a little attention to it. I've been talking about it everywhere I go. You'll be surprised; I'll be saying to people and telling them I'll be driving the Pace Car at the Indy 500, and they break out in applause. And, almost all of them know what I'm talking about.

Q: I guess you answered my next question on how excited you were when you were chosen to drive the car.

CP: I was very excited when I got the word. And I had to take a look at my schedule to see if I could be here on the 29th and whether I could work out a trial run, such as we're having today. It took a little figuring, but when I told some of my friends about it, they were like, 'We've got to arrange everything, and we're all coming with you on the 29th.' I said, 'No, you're not all coming with me on the 29th, but some of you can come with me on the 29th.' So, I was very excited to be selected, and it's a real honor, frankly. I want to thank the track and Chevrolet for giving me this opportunity.

Q: How was Johnny out there?

CP: He was good. He tolerated my minor errors, and he's a great teacher. I think we were getting down pat around the third or fourth time around.

Q: We were talking earlier that you owning a Corvette. How does this compare?

CP: It's a little different in that this is a convertible, and the rush of air going by you, it's a little bit different. But not that much different. The car holds the road very, very well at whatever speed I put it to, and I got her up to 110 to 115. And, as I say, my other car, my real car at home, I'd never be able to do that with it. And, it's just going to have to be content to keep within the speed limits of Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Q: Generally, you're not a nervous guy, and we all know that. But are you going to have some butterflies at the end of May?

CP: I don't think you would be normal if you didn't have some butterflies when you walk out here, see the crowd and hear the noise of the engines and the cars. So, there will be a few butterflies. But, I've been in situations where I've had to deal with butterflies, and I'll be able to take care of that.

Q: Thank you.

CP: Thank you.


Rutherford offered this assessment of Powell's practice performance: "What we're doing is getting a feel for the pace lap speeds and the visual that goes along with it. That helps a lot. He's come a long way since we started this morning. The general is getting the hang of it, and we've only made a half dozen laps on his two runs so far. On the first time, he missed the pits, which is (finding the pit entrance) hard for somebody that's never been around here before. But he's got the picture now, and we'll go back out and get some more seat time, and he'll be ready Race Day.


Indy 500 tickets: To purchase tickets, camping or parking for the 89th Indianapolis 500, contact the IMS ticket office at (800) 822-INDY or log on to


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Johnny Rutherford