IRL: Greg Norman To Drive Indy 500 Pace Car

GOLFER NORMAN PRACTICES HIS DRIVING IN INDIANAPOLIS 500 PACE CAR INDIANAPOLIS, April 1, 1998 - Golfing great Greg Norman's close friend Nigel Mansell led 34 laps during the 1993 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. Next month, "The Shark" will get to...


INDIANAPOLIS, April 1, 1998 - Golfing great Greg Norman's close friend Nigel Mansell led 34 laps during the 1993 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. Next month, "The Shark" will get to "lead" at least two laps of his own during the 82nd running of the famed motorsports event. But Norman won't be at the wheel of a 750-horsepower, open-wheel, rear-engine race car. Instead, he will be driving a sleek, 345-horsepower 1998 Chevrolet Corvette convertible that will pace 33 racers to the green flag at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 24. Norman will join such illustrious predecessors as Jim Perkins, former Chevrolet general manager; Chuck Yeager, aerospace pioneer; and James Garner, actor, as the official Pace Car driver for the race. Norman spent March 30 practicing for his special assignment, then March 31 took media representatives on rides around the storied 2-mile track. It was appropriate that his drive carried him through the heart of the Brickyard Crossing golf course, which has four of its 18 holes inside the track. Mansell became Norman's close Florida Gulf Coast neighbor and friend when the 1992 Formula One world champion was driving on the CART circuit in 1993-94. It was Mansell, now retired and returned to the United Kingdom, who urged him to accept the opportunity to drive the Pace Car and offered advice on the proper way to drive around Indy. Mansell was named Bank One Rookie of the Year in 1993 when he nearly won the race, losing out to Emerson Fittipaldi and Arie Luyendyk on a late restart. He returned in 1994 and was eliminated while challenging for the lead when a backmarker's car landed on his on the pit entrance lane. "We're very good friends, we speak almost on a monthly basis," said Norman. "He taught me a lot here in just a normal car, a city car. He told me about the different lines. He told me about the corner. He told me about No. 3 (turn) when you're coming out of the back straight, that the corner actually wants to take you to the wall before you make the left-hander in No. 3. "Those kinds of things you can relate to, because being as close to an individual as a friend they kind of share a little bit more with you about the emotions of the race. It's wonderful, because we've always had a great association, an affinity with our respective sports. He feels for me when I don't do well, he's ecstatic when I do. And I'm the same way with him. "So I have a lot of fond memories, a lot of good memories about what he taught me about how to get around here." The Aussie, who in the past has taken an F-14 Tomcat off an aircraft carrier and swam with great white sharks in the Great Barrier Reef, said he put all of Mansell's instructions to work this week. It took him about 20 minutes to acclimate himself to the track at speed, but everything went fine. Now he's ready for the "Big Show" when hundreds of thousands of racing fans will watch him bring 11 rows of powerful Pep Boys Indy Racing League cars around for pulsating start of the 500.

"I haven't had a problem, I enjoyed it, I've got a lot more confidence in driving the vehicle," Norman said. "You're only going to go as fast as your abilities and confidence will let you. I think I'm doing OK." Norman wouldn't reveal the speed he attained during his test session, stating that the car is fast enough to make the driver focus and concentrate. This will be the 50th anniversary of the first Chevrolet pacing the 500. The initial Chevy in 1948 was a gray, two-door convertible called the Fleetmaster. It was 30 years later that a Corvette was chosen for the honor, and Corvettes returned as Pace Cars again in 1986 and 1995. The latest Corvette Pace Car is painted Pace Car Purple, with resplendent yellow graphics on the chassis, bright yellow wheels and similar interior coloring. It is powered by an all-aluminum, 5.7-liter LS1 small-block V8 engine that produces 345 horsepower and tremendous torque. An electronically controlled, four-speed automatic transmission pushes it to top speed. Norman, who was impressed by the handling and straight-line speed of the car, particularly likes the brakes. "If you've got a car that goes fast, you've got to have a car that stops," he said. "When you jump on the brakes on these things, it stops as good if not better than its handling." Norman has been playing professional golf for 20 years and is the game's all-time money winner. He has attempted many things in life and signs along with autographs the words "Attack Life." This is his latest challenge, and his excitement level accelerates each day he comes closer to Race Day. "I think the moment of truth will come May 24 when I get out of the car after the race has started," he said. "That's when I'll be able to relate what it is. That's when I'll have the opportunity of expressing my true feelings. "Whether it will be the greatest experience of my life, I can't answer that question yet. But I've got a bloody feeling it's going to be right up there as No. 1 or No. 2."

Event schedule:

Opening day for this year's Indianapolis 500 is May 10, with a full schedule of activities leading up to race day May 24. Qualifications have been shortened from four days to two this year, combining Pole Day and Bubble Day into one exciting weekend May 16-17. Practice will take place from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. May 10-15, with Pole Day qualifications starting at 11 a.m. May 16. Bubble Day qualifications start at noon May 17. Carburetion Day is May 21, with practice from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and the Coors Pit Stop Competition from 1:30-3 p.m. The 82nd Indianapolis 500 starts at 11 a.m. May 24.


Broadcast schedule:

The Indianapolis 500 will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network at 11 a.m. (EDT) May 24. ABC will televise Pole Day live from 1-2 p.m. May 16 and Bubble Day live from 1:30-3 p.m. May 17. ESPN will offer live Pole Day coverage from 2-5:30 p.m. May 16 and live Bubble Day coverage from 5-7 p.m. May 17. ESPN2 will show live Pole Day coverage from 5:30-7 p.m. May 16 and live Bubble Day coverage from 3-5 p.m.

The IMS Radio Network will broadcast two live, one-hour shows on Pole Day, at 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. May 16. Two live, one-hour shows also will be broadcast on Bubble Day, at 12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. May 17. ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, QVC and the IMS Radio Network also will combine to offer thorough coverage of practice days, Carburetion Day and the Victory Banquet, with other race previews also scheduled.


Tickets: General admission tickets for Indianapolis 500 practice and qualifications can be purchased in advance by calling (317) 484-6700. Reserved race-day tickets are sold out, but general admission tickets are available in advance or at the gate.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Arie Luyendyk , Nigel Mansell , Emerson Fittipaldi