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

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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.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).