The Pace Car for the Indianapolis 500 is every bit as historic and legendary as the race itself and the track where it’s held. It’s been driven by astronauts, Indy 500 winners, decorated American generals, world-famous actors, late-night television hosts, Formula One World Champions, heads of large corporations, land speed record holders, Tour de France winners and car dealers.
There have been many, many models and makes of Pace Cars in the Speedway’s 100 years of history. Ranging from Marmons and Lincolns to Cadillacs and Fords. It’s been very interesting to look back and see the evolution of the Pace Car over the years. In 1911, the first Indianapolis 500 was paced by a Stoddard Dayton driven by none other than Indianapolis Motor Speedway co-founder Carl G. Fisher.
The image above is quite a sight. The pace car is shown here but not in 1911. The photo is actually from 1909 while the track was still under construction.
In 1925, the field was led to the green flag by a Rickenbacker “8.” The car was driven by racing driver, WWI Flying Ace, CEO of Eastern Airlines, Rickenbacker Motors and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Eddie Rickenbacker.
In 1926, the first Chevrolet hit the track, although it wasn’t a Pace Car. The 1926 Indianapolis 500 was started with Louis Chevrolet, the founder of Chevrolet, behind the wheel of the Chrysler Imperial “80.” Louis was a four-time Indianapolis 500 competitor, having completed his career at Indy with a best finish of seventh.
Chevrolet has led the field of the Indianapolis 500 with assorted models in their expansive line of automobiles. There have been Corvettes, Camaros, Berettas, Monte Carlos and car-truck hybrids like the SSR from 2003. In 1967, what could be considered one of Chevrolet’s most iconic cars made its debut at IMS. The 1967 Chevrolet Camaro was a modified, 375-horsepower, 396 cubic-inch V-8 convertible. It was painted in a patriotic red, white and blue and was driven by three-time Indy 500 winner Mauri Rose.
In 1993, the Camaro made what seemed to be its last laps around the Speedway until it returned to lead the field in 2009 and 2010. This year, for the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, a Camaro once again will lead the lucky 33 drivers to the Yard of Bricks.
The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car is equipped with a 400-horsepower V-8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The actual Pace Car for the race requires no performance modifications to perform its duty in front of the racing field.
All 50 of the Indianapolis 500 Festival committees cars will be SS convertible models fitted with the 2SS equipment package, offering the following standard features:
- Four-wheel disc brakes with Brembo four-piston calipers and hydraulic asssist
- StabiliTrak electronic stability control
- Competitive/sport mode that enhances on-track performance
- Performance Launch Control (with the manual transmission) that optimizes hard-acceleration launches for quicker, more consistent performance.
- Twenty-inch polished aluminum wheels and performance tires
- Head-up instrument display
- Center console with auxiliary gauge packaage.
Want even more Pace Car history?
Check out our Flickr set with a comprehensive look at Pace Cars over the years.
Consider joining us this May 21-22 for the 100th Anniversary Pace Car Reunion.
Or snag your own die-cast version of the 2011 Camaro Pace Car here.