Jeff Gordon to drive new Chevrolet Z06 pace car for Indianapolis 500

4 Comments

Jeff Gordon will drive at the Indianapolis 500 after all.

Yes, it’s only as the pace car driver, but that’s beside the point.

In a perfect send off to the NASCAR driver’s career, in this his 23rd and final season in Sprint Cup, Gordon will lead the Verizon IndyCar Series field to green flag of the 99th Indianapolis 500.

See the full release from IMS below:

Indiana racing legend and five-time Brickyard champion Jeff Gordon will drive a Corvette Z06 pace car to kick off the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500, on May 24 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Gordon, who grew up in nearby Pittsboro, Indiana, is no stranger to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He won the first NASCAR race in the history of the famed 2.5-mile oval – the 1994 Brickyard 400 – and has won four more times, including last year. His 2014 victory made him the first five-time Brickyard champion and the only five-time winner of a major race on the IMS oval.

“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 in 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.”

Race fans can follow Jeff Gordon and his Corvette Z06 pace car experience on Twitter at #JGPace2Race.

Gordon’s drive will mark the 13th time a Corvette has been the official pace car, dating to 1978, and the 26th time a Chevrolet has led the pack for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Corvette has served as the pace car more than any other vehicle in the race’s history.

“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, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Jeff has such a strong connection to the state of Indiana and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and his appearance in the Corvette Z06 pace car reinforces Chevrolet’s important place in the past, present and future of the Indianapolis 500. We also look forward to seeing him back here on July 26, to see if he can make it six wins in the Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard.”

With 650 supercharged horsepower, a seven-speed manual transmission and a track-capable chassis system, Gordon will have no trouble keeping in front of the race field in the production-spec Corvette Z06. Featuring an Arctic White exterior and Adrenaline Red interior, only its unique Indy graphics package and safety strobe lights distinguish it from other production models.

Like Gordon, Chevrolet has a long, shared heritage with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Chevrolet was founded in 1911, the year of the inaugural 500 Mile Race, and the Chevrolet brothers – company co-founder Louis, Arthur and Gaston – all competed in early Indy 500 races. Arthur Chevrolet competed in the 1911 race and Gaston Chevrolet won it in 1920.

“It’s great to have Jeff Gordon serve as this year’s pace car driver,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports. “He is a true champion who has earned the respect and admiration of competitors and race fans alike. It will be very special to have Jeff lead the Indy 500 field to the green flag, behind the wheel of the most powerful and capable production car ever from Chevrolet – on a day he’ll also be competing in the Coca Cola 600 NASCAR race at Charlotte.”

In addition to its frequent use as a pace car in the Indianapolis 500, official partner Chevrolet is the only car to ever pace the Brickyard 400.

F1: Russian Grand Prix post-race interviews (VIDEO)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Russian Grand Prix is in the books, with Valtteri Bottas scoring his first career victory at Sochi.  Bottas had both a dynamic start and a dynamic defense for Mercedes against Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to win in his 81st career start, and fourth with Mercedes since changing over from Williams.

NBCSN F1 pit reporter Will Buxton caught up with a number of drivers either during or after the race. Those interviews are below.

More videos will come in the fourth and final weekend installment of Paddock Pass, the NBC Sports Group original digital series. Stay tuned for that in the next day or so on NBCSports.com.

Anyway, Russia post-race interviews are below:

WIN. Valtteri Bottas

2. Sebastian Vettel

4. Lewis Hamilton

5. Max Verstappen

9. Felipe Massa

DNF. Daniel Ricciardo

DNS. Fernando Alonso

Hinchcliffe endures tough night in Phoenix to finish 12th

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

James Hinchcliffe, off to one of the best starts he’s ever had in the Verizon IndyCar Series (certainly his best since his two wins in four races to start 2013) endured possibly the most frustrating race of his 2017 season Saturday night at Phoenix.

Down on pace to the Chevrolet cars, particularly those from Team Penske, Hinchcliffe had resigned himself to aim for “best in class,” and he had enough speed to run solidly in the top ten. However, as he explained, poor fuel mileage saw him be the first driver to pit during green flag pit stops, which elongated his final stint and forced him to make a late stop for fuel, dropping him to 12th at the end.

“Man, we just weren’t getting the mileage the other guys were. It’s too bad because the ARROW Electronics car was actually pretty strong,” he told NBC Sports. “We survived that first turn thing; it was unfortunate to see Mikhail (Aleshin) caught up in that.

“And we had decent pace, we were kind of hanging with Scott (Dixon) there in the first stint and ended up just having to pit way before anyone else. And five or six laps a stint compounding, we just never got the yellow at the right time to equalize the field and put us on the same page as everyone else. And at the end, we had to come in for that splash and go.”

Of course, the night could have been much worse, as he barely avoided the first turn pileup that collected five cars after teammate Mikhail Aleshin spun in Turn 2. “It was close, man. I saw Mikhail start to spin and come down, and then Marco (Andretti) hit the brakes and locked up and went around. I was lucky to avoid it, to be honest,” he said of the incident.

Despite finishing 12th, Hinchcliffe held onto fifth place in the standings, 39 points behind new championship leader Simon Pagenaud.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

Newgarden finishes ninth after two wing changes in Phoenix

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

The Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix had a promising beginning for Josef Newgarden, who rocketed up to second on the opening lap after starting fourth. However, a pair of front wing changes put paid to any chances of a win, and the Barber Motorsports Park winner was relegated to ninth at race’s end.

“It was a rough night, pretty much as rough as it can be for the No. 2 car,” he told NBCSN’s Robin Miller after the race. “The good news is I think we had speed, I think all the Penske cars did. Simon (Pagenaud) was awesome tonight so congrats to him for getting the win. It’s a victory for all of us at Team Penske, so I’m happy to see that. Will (Power) was good too, and obviously Helio (Castroneves) starting the race up front.”

It was unclear what caused the initial damage, which was on the left-front end plate and happened in the early laps. But, a lap 138 caution when Takuma Sato crashed allowed the team a chance to replace the wing.

From there, Newgarden charged back toward the front and was battling for a podium finish when contact with the lapped car of Ryan Hunter-Reay damaged the new wing, this time on the right-front end plate.

Newgarden described the incident and revealed that there was nothing he could do to avoid contact. “I was following Scott (Dixon), and I had Helio breathing down my neck. We were just trying to ride and catch a podium to recover for the day, essentially. Scott got on the inside of Ryan into (turn 3), they went two-by-two and so I followed Scott through. But as soon as Scott got clear, Ryan wanted to get back down immediately. And I just had a head of steam coming with Scott. I didn’t have any time to check up, I tried to check up and hit the brakes, but I’m in the middle of the corner, so I couldn’t really do much to miss him.”

Hunter-Reay described the view from his vantage point to NBCSN’s Marty Snider: “It’s just very frustrating. I couldn’t do anything with the car all night, because I love short ovals. Survived the start. Then we get a puncture or whatever. Dixon came up behind me, stuck his nose in, I was worried I might have turned across him. I went into the gray and two guys got by me. The car wouldn’t turn at all. Bent the right rear toe link. It was a really tough ride today. It was way too complicated.”

Newgarden pitted a second time for a new wing and ended up finishing ninth. He now sits third in the championship, 26 points behind teammate Simon Pagenaud for the lead.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

Hamilton struggles to fourth in Sochi after ‘very tough weekend’

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lewis Hamilton endured one of his toughest Formula 1 races in recent memory in Russia on Sunday, finishing fourth at the Sochi Autodrom as Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas took his maiden grand prix win.

Hamilton qualified fourth on Saturday, almost half a second back from Bottas and the Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen who locked out the front row of the grid.

Bottas was able to pass both Ferrari drivers on the first lap en route to victory, but Hamilton struggled to keep up with their pace, finishing some 36 seconds behind his teammate.

“It’s been a very, very tough weekend. I can’t remember having as difficult a weekend,” Hamilton told NBCSN after the race.

“Probably the last time I remember is Baku or something like that. Just ultimately not quick enough, not got the car where I was comfortable, and then in the race I was overheating so just had to settle for fourth.”

Bottas’ success came in just his fourth race for Mercedes, having replaced F1 world champion Nico Rosberg for 2017 following the German’s shock retirement.

Hamilton has spoken warmly of Bottas on a number of occasions, and was full of praise for the Finn after his success in Sochi.

“Big congratulations to him. He’s done such a great job,” Hamilton said.

“Fantastic teammate to work with. It’s an amazing feeling to win your first grand prix. It will mean a lot to him and his family.”

With title rival Sebastian Vettel finishing second, Hamilton is now 13 points adrift of the championship lead ahead of the fifth race of the year in Spain on May 14.