The veteran NASCAR driver, and many time Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon has been announced as the driver of the 2015 Indianapolis 500 pace car.
No one has won more races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) than Jeff Gordon, the premier NASCAR driver making his final run for a fifth championship this year in Sprint Cup Series competition. Gordon won the first Brickyard 400 held on the legendary 2.5-mile IMS oval in 1994 and won his most recent Brickyard race - a fifth - last year.
There have been four four-time Indianapolis 500 winners; Jeff Gordon is the only five-time Brickyard 400 victor and the sole individual to win more than four contests on this racetrack.
While he’s made his career in closed cars, Gordon got his start in open wheel, moving from his native California to Indianapolis-close Pittsboro to hone his craft on the dirt and paved ovals that permeate the midwest. He wanted to race the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, the classic open wheel competition that sees its 99th edition on May 24, but the vagaries of commerce took him elsewhere and now, in the twilight of his career, that race is no longer a possibility for this ultra-competitive soul.
The track will always be a special place for me.
But he can pace it and pace it Jeff Gordon will do this year, driving the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 pace car to start the 99th Indy 500. And he’ll talk about it on Twitter using the hashtag #JGPace2Race. This is the 13th time a Corvette has been the official pace car, dating back to 1978 and the 26th time a Chevrolet vehicle paces the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Gordon has won each of his Brickyard 400s in a Chevrolet; the brand is the sole pace car to start each Brickyard 400.
“Indy is hallowed ground for racers like me and I couldn’t be more thrilled to drive the Corvette Z06 pace car around the track that helped drive my success over the years,” Gordon said.
“The Indianapolis 500 is one of the most celebrated races of the year and an event I always dreamed of racing while growing up in California and nearby Pittsboro. I’ve won five NASCAR races at IMS and the track will always be a special place for me, so to be able to participate in such a historic day will be something I remember for the rest of my life.”
Steeped in tradition
Certainly Gordon has enjoyed pre-race ceremonies that take place before each NASCAR start at The Brickyard, but certainly he’s never experienced the type of euphoria and anxiety that surrounds the Indianapolis 500. From the moment the cannons erupt to allow fans onto the grounds to the singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana”, Gordon is likely to be a bit overwhelmed by the experience. It’s different from anything else he’s experienced in racing - and something you just don’t get until and unless you’ve been at IMS on the Sunday before Memorial Day.
“Jeff is a great choice to lead this year’s starting 33 drivers in the Indianapolis 500 to the green flag,” said J. Douglas Boles, IMS president.
“Jeff has such a strong connection to the state of Indiana and Indianapolis Motor Speedway; his appearance in the Corvette Z06 pace car reinforces Chevrolet’s important place in the past, present and future of the Indianapolis 500.”
Can Gordon kiss the bricks a sixth time?
Boles also noted he’ll look forward to seeing if Gordon can extend his record at Indy on July 26 by taking a sixth victory in the Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard.
“Jeff is a true champion who has earned the respect and admiration of competitors and race fans alike,” added Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports. “It will be very special to have Jeff lead the Indy 500 to the green flag behind the wheel of the most powerful and capable production car ever from Chevrolet.”
Once he’s completed this exciting ritual, Gordon flies to Charlotte to compete in the longest NASCAR race of each year, the Coca Cola 600 Sprint Cup race. While he won’t be doing The Double, Jeff Gordon will be able to experience the excitement of both races with Chevrolet power.