Five-time Brickyard 400 winner and four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon will drive a Corvette Z06 pace car for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 mile race, May 24 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
It is the 13th time a Corvette has served as 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.
Gordon, who grew up in nearby Pittsboro, Ind., is no stranger to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 1994 he won the inaugural Brickyard 400 – the first-ever NASCAR race at the Brickyard, and has visited the winner’s circle there four more times. That makes him one of only two five-time winners at Indy in any series. Michael Schumacher won five Formula One races there.
“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 Motor Speedway.”
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.
“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.”
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.
“Jeff is a great choice to lead this year’s starting 33 drivers in Indianapolis 500 to the green flag,” said J. Douglas Boles, president of the 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 as well. We also look forward to seeing him back here on July 26, to see if he can make it six wins for the Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard.”
“Jeff Gordon is a NASCAR legend, an icon of global motorsports and has a special history of success racing at The Brickyard in Indianapolis and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte,” said Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO. “This is a unique honor for him to be recognized in this way by our partners at Chevrolet and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The day certainly will be another special one in the storied history that Jeff already has written at Indianapolis and Charlotte.”
CHEVROLET AND INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY ANNOUNCED 2015 INDIANAPOLIS 500 PACE CAR AND PACE CAR DRIVER – JEFF GORDON. Complete transcript of press conference. An interview with: DOUG BOLES, JIM CAMPBELL, JEFF GORDON:
DOUG BOLES: I would like now to introduce a special guest. It's the U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports for Chevrolet, Jim Campbell. Jim is maybe one of our best allies here. Not only are you involved with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which I believe you believe is your home track, but also with the IndyCar Series.
JIM CAMPBELL: Thank you, Doug. Good afternoon, everybody. It is always special to be here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This partnership goes way back. For Chevrolet, it's kind of our home track because the year that the Indianapolis 500 started, the first Indianapolis race, was the first year that Chevrolet was formed. It was formed by co founders Louis Chevrolet and Billy Durant.
In that same year, Louis Chevrolet and his brothers loved racing and performance, so his brother Arthur was the 16th entrant in the very first Indianapolis race. His brother Gaston raced here in 1920 and won the race. For Chevrolet, this is our home track.
It's very, very special. We compete here obviously in the IndyCar Series with the Chevrolet 2.2 liter direct injected twin turbo V6. We also compete here with NASCAR. We're proud of that with the Brickyard 400.
Today, because of the NASCAR tire test, this was a great way to tie in with Jeff. He is actually shaking down for us the 2015 Corvette Z06. That is the official pace car of the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Now, this car has 650 horsepower, it has a 6.2 liter aluminum small block V8. It's supercharged for the first time. The body structure is all aluminum, so it's lightweight and strong. The structural rigidity on the Corvette is 20% stiffer than the previous generation. That's the advancement we have in our technology, the materials, the way we put it all together.
650 horsepower, here it comes down the frontstretch. Goes zero to 60 with the seven speed, you got to love this, zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds. Eight speed automatic, zero to 60 in 2.95 seconds. It is lightweight and it is nimble. It has an incredible downforce package.
The learning we have from our Corvette race program, the C6.R and now the C7.R program, that technology was driven right over to the Corvette Stingray and the Corvette Z06.
We are so proud. This will be our 26th year in which we will pace the race and we're going to do it again with Chevrolet. Many years with the Camaro, many years with the Corvette. This year is the Corvette Z06.
This car has a tremendous amount of technology. In our Corvette race program we've won many championships, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 12 Hours of Sebring, and the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.
Here it comes again. He's coming down the frontstretch. He's supposed to come in here. He's loving it so much. That is fantastic.
While we wait for Jeff to come around one more time, somebody call him in, it's time to pit (laughter). I just want to tell you, we can't wait here for the Indianapolis 500 and also the Grand Prix of Indy. We will be debuting our new aero kit for the Speedway.
Chevy has a few wins under our belt already. It's a great series. We love the wheel to wheel competition there.
Then on the NASCAR side, to come back here, and Jeff will be coming back to attempt his sixth attempt at a win, five already under his belt, pretty special that they're doing their NASCAR test for him to shake this car down. He's a long time partner of Chevrolet, for sure.
He is going to pit this time, I guarantee it. Somebody get on the radio (laughter).
Thank you for joining us from around the country and around the world. A special day in Indianapolis. Every time you come through the tunnel here, it is so special. To be here and think about the people who have won here, the Indianapolis 500, or the Brickyard 400, many other races as well.
Here it is, the 2015 Corvette Z06, long time team Chevy partner Jeff Gordon doing a little shakedown while doing the NASCAR test. Join me in welcoming Jeff Gordon.
Jeff, welcome. As I mentioned, a long time Chevy team partner, raced Chevy many years. Won 92 races with Chevrolet, four championships you have under your belt, five championships at the Brickyard 400.
Thanks for being here and shaking down the Corvette V06. What did you think about this pace car? You were supposed to take one lap and come in, but you took more than one. What did you think?
JEFF GORDON: I enjoyed it so much the first lap, I thought I would take one more (laughter).
This is amazing. What a special moment this is for me. When I go back to being a young kid, I started racing quarter midgets in California, all I wanted to do was be a professional racecar driver and hoped that I got the chance to race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
As a kid I watched this race. I dreamt about it. I got to be here in 1983, watch Al Unser, Jr. be a rookie that year, I think Sneva won it that year. Sat in the grandstands that year. I got Rick Mears' autograph. Those were my heroes.
As I got older, I moved to Indiana. My first car was a Chevy. My second car was a Chevy. Now I get to drive Chevrolets every weekend on the racetrack and win in a Chevy. To do it here in Indianapolis is the ultimate.
There's only one thing that was missing, that was the Indy 500. This is as close as I think I'm going to get. But this is pretty awesome. This is amazing to me. What an honor it is for me to be here. To come back here in May on race day at the Indy 500, pace this field to the green in this amazing Z06 Corvette, I don't know how it gets any better than that.
JIM CAMPBELL: The 2015 pace car for the 99th running of the Indy 500 is a Corvette Z06. The pace driver is a guy from NASCAR. The driver to pace the field to green at the Indianapolis 500 is Jeff Gordon. Congratulations.
JEFF GORDON: I thought you already told them. Did I give it away (laughter)? What were you doing while I was making those laps?
JIM CAMPBELL: I was telling them all about the car.
JEFF GORDON: I had it up over 160 miles per hour. Felt amazing. It's got a lot of power. The car handles incredible, as well. I didn't really need brakes, but I thought I'd try them out anyway. It's got great brakes as well.
What a perfect car to lead the field here for the Indy 500. It's going to be a great day. I'm looking forward to flying in the night before, be here early in the morning, pace the field, watch a few laps with my family, then head to Charlotte for the 600. This is my version of the double.
I think I got the best of both worlds.
JIM CAMPBELL: That is going to be a great day. You're going to have quite a busy morning, leading the field to green, then turning your attention to the 600.
Tell us a little bit about that race, what that means to you going back to Charlotte.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it's such an awesome race weekend. I'm a huge motorsports fan. So I love watching the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500. Then to be able to compete in the 600 at Charlotte, have won that race before, it's a very special race. It's a very long race. But.
The excitement and the energy, just like here, it's unbelievable what race day is like for the Indy 500. It's the same way for the 600. It's incredible energy. The fans are excited to see a great race.
I love that track. It's one of my favorite tracks on the NASCAR circuit, as far as the mile and a half's, the high bank tracks. It's a lot of fun to drive. Not quite like Indianapolis, but it's certainly one that's at the top of my list, along with Indianapolis.
Yeah, it's one that I always look forward to. I've never been anywhere else on race day for like 20 something years, so this is going to be quite an experience. It's one that I'm really looking forward to.
I'm trying to get Rick Hendrick to come up here as well. I don't think he's ever been to an Indy 500. But my wife and kids are very excited. I took my son Leo to a race at Pocono a couple years ago. He thought those cars were the coolest cars ever. He's pretty excited to come to this race and see these cars on the grid.
JIM CAMPBELL: I want to turn our attention to July. You're going to come back here for the Brickyard 400. Tell us about what that race means, this one in particular.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, that one's really special because it's going to be my last one. To win last year, you know, pull off that victory after so many years, it being number five, I've got such a special race team. Even though I drive the 24 car and I have for many, many years, Alan Gustafson and the group of guys we have right now, they had never won the Brickyard 400 before. To be able to do it with them, they were so pumped and excited.
Then Ingrid had never been a part of that or my kids. To kiss these bricks, which is such an awesome tradition, I love it. There's no better way to celebrate than kissing these gritty bricks after a long race.
The Brickyard 400, like I say, I didn't get the opportunity to race in the Indy 500, but when I heard the announcement that they were going to have the Brickyard 400, I was already down south racing NASCAR, that to me was a very special moment in my life because one of my dreams was finally going to come true where I got to race. I've been here many times but had never raced here. Then to go and win that race, it just blew my mind.
To me, it's always a pleasure to come here. There's always something special when I drive in this track, whether we're testing, whether we're here to race, there's something so special to me.
I think it goes back to that childhood I have, the memories I have of watching the Indy 500, being here live for the Indy 500. That was the first real motorsports race that I ever watched from TV, was the Indy 500. It's the one I watched every year.
JIM CAMPBELL: Doug, what does it mean to have Jeff Gordon pace the race, then come back here and go for his sixth win at the Brickyard 400?
DOUG BOLES: I'm hoping you don't take an extra lap on race day here (laughter).
JEFF GORDON: If I win (laughter).
DOUG BOLES: It's really great. There's not been a champion that Indianapolis as a community has embraced more than Jeff Gordon. He has roots in Indiana. We know you appreciate the history of the Speedway and the Indianapolis 500. It's a great way for us to celebrate the fans, what you have meant to this community. I can't wait to tell the fans to come back in July. We're just thrilled. The Chevy connection makes a lot of sense.
I have to make a quick shout out. This is a logistical nightmare to figure out how to make this work. I have to thank everybody at the Verizon IndyCar Series, everybody at Charlotte Motor Speedway, everybody at NASCAR, everybody at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The glue that put that together was Chevrolet. We thank you for this great opportunity for us to celebrate Jeff Gordon before he gets to come here and actually maybe win your last race here in 2015. But it's great for all of us.
JIM CAMPBELL: Doug, thank you so much.