Part 2: 2002-2008
When the Corvette is chosen...
When the Corvette is chosen to pace the Indianapolis 500, Chevrolet sends pace cars, track cars, and festival cars to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) a month or more before the race. Shown here are the 33 '08 Festival Committee Corvettes on Indy's main straightaway prior to that year's race. The lead Corvette is an IMS track car, not an actual pace car. The other track cars can be seen to the right. Photo by Ron McQueeney/IMS
If you think Corvettes have paced the Indianapolis 500 more than any other car in the 21st century, you're absolutely right. In the first decade of the new millennium, America's Favorite Sports Car has launched the annual Memorial Day weekend race six out of ten times-in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008.
Of course, the car's association with the 500 goes back much further than that. As we wrote last month in Part 1 of "Pace Setters," Corvettes also paced the race four times prior to 2002-in 1978, 1986, 1995, and 1998-bringing the marque's Indy Pace Car total to 10, more than any other vehicle in the event's 99-year history.
The Corvette Pace Car Registry (www.corvettepacecarregistry.com) groups Indy 500 Vettes into the following four categories:
These are the actual Corvettes used to pace the race. The number varies from year to year, but Chevrolet typically supplies three or more Corvettes when the car is selected as the pace vehicle.
The '03 50th Anniversary Pace...
The '03 50th Anniversary Pace Car poses for promotional photo at the Yard of Brick in April 2002. Though '02 Corvettes were still in production at the time, Chevy sent this pilot-line '03 model to the track to start the Vette's 50th Anniversary celebration early. Located at the start/finish line, the Yard of Brick is a 1-yard section of original bricks left over from when the IMS was first paved in 1910. Photo by Ron McQueeney/IMS
Chevy sends these Corvettes to the Speedway to be used by IMS officials and city VIPs (including the mayor, the police chief, media representatives, and others) during the month of May and at the race.
The city of Indianapolis holds an Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade during May; each of the 33 festival-committee members is assigned a Corvette (or other Chevy model), which he or she drives during the parade and at other festival committee functions.
Pace Car Replicas
In addition, Chevy has often created limited-edition Indy 500 Pace Car replicas for sale to the public. These replica Corvettes are neither pace cars, track cars, nor festival cars, and they have no direct involvement in the race.
This month we'll spotlight the Corvettes that have paced the 500 since 2002, along with the festival and track cars that played supporting roles for both the race and the city during the month of May.
Actor Jim Caviezel was picked...
Actor Jim Caviezel was picked for pace-car-driving duties at the 86th Annual Indy 500, held on May 26, 2002. Shown here are the three pace-car coupes (rear), joined by two track-car convertibles used to carry VIPs during the parade lap. At the end of the race, Indy and Chevy awarded a track car to winner Helio Castroneves. Photo by John Cote/IMS
An '04 Corvette convertible...
An '04 Corvette convertible begins its pace-car stint by being photographed early in 2004 on the track's main straightaway. Photo by Ron McQueeney/IMS
Actor Morgan Freeman pilots...
Actor Morgan Freeman pilots the '04 pace car around the course during a yellow-flag period at the 88th Annual Indianapolis 500, held on May 30, 2004. "This is one of those times in your life when you realize you're involved in something just a little bit bigger than awesome," said Freeman. "This is [my] first time being on a racetrack with 350,000 people there, with an extraordinary amount of excitement surrounding the event. You're not a spectator; you're part of it." Photo by Jim Haines/IMS
The IMS Committee chose former...
The IMS Committee chose former Secretary of State Colin Powell to pace the 89th Annual Indianapolis 500 on May 29, 2005. He drove a patriotic red, white, and blue '05 Corvette convertible. Photo by Ron McQueeney/IMS
Also that year, Chevy provided...
Also that year, Chevy provided a number of '05 Victory Red Corvette convertibles to drive military heroes around the track on a ceremonial lap prior to the race. Photo by Steve Snoddy/IMS
Following Indy tradition,...
Following Indy tradition, the IMS staff staged the '06 Indianapolis 500 Official Pace Car at the Yard of Brick for first-look shots of the car. IMS and Chevy used these photos for early publicity on the upcoming event. Photo by Ron McQueeney/IMS